There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
TO JAN. 18
For connoisseurs of Southern photography, Jack Kotz’s exhibition “Ms. Booth’s Garden” should ring a few bells. Kotz’s quirky mantelpieces, unpeopled kitchens, and clusters of empty porch chairs could be drawn straight from the archive of William Eggleston, the celebrated chronicler of Memphis. The images of faded, kitschy signs and forlorn small-town streetscapes suggest a clear link to Alabama-born artist William Christenberry. And Kotz’s general approach—documenting the intimate corners of a small Southern community—mirror those of photographer Birney Imes, who conveyed the essence of a roadside dive in rural Mississippi. Given such distinguished forbears, you might be tempted to question what Kotz adds to this genre. Yet Kotz’s unshakable love of place draws you in anyway. Over the course of 20 years, Kotz—a Washington native now living in Santa Fe, N.M.—traveled regularly to Hardin County, Tenn., and Webster and Choctaw Counties in Mississippi to document the birthplace and residential environs, respectively, of his grandmother, Myrtle Booth. Kotz’s interior and exterior shots—drawn from a cache of more than 10,000 negatives never exhibited publicly until this year—are composed with unexpectedly pleasing symmetries and varied shades of light. Their seeming simplicity unfolds in evocative ways: Deep Freeze (pictured), one of Kotz’s finest images, documents a pile of bags containing frozen vegetables in several bold colors, but what steals the show are the sinuous surfaces of clear and translucent plastic that bind them together. Sadly, Ms. Booth died two months ago, at 96—shortly before the publication of the catalog. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and by appointment, to Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Ralls Collection, 1516 31st St. NW. Free. (202) 342-1754. (Louis Jacobson)