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TO JULY 6
With the completion of a major renovation and expansion, the Kathleen Ewing Gallery finally has a space worthy of its photographic ambitions. In its former incarnation, the Ewing would have been hard-pressed to display the works of Claudia Smigrod, JoAnn Verburg, and Norifumi Inada at the same time. The joint exhibition of their works—titled “Secret Gardens”—is now not only feasible, there’s even space to spare. Smigrod’s 10 floral images channel the same boldly colored, decontextualized vibe that Memphis-based photographer Huger Foote has mined, with one big difference: Smigrod assembles her finished works by tacking together multiple prints of similar views. At its best, Smigrod’s technique adds a bracing kaleidoscopic perspective to otherwise ordinary botanical views; elsewhere, however, her haphazard method of assemblage proves more distracting than enlightening. (For a really impressive piece of photographic assemblage, check out Stephen Lawson’s 1994 work, Three Sisters, on display in Ewing’s front gallery.) JoAnn Verburg’s sunny, large-scale diptychs and triptychs of trees put viewers in the right mood, but with the exception of the intriguingly top-heavy composition Olive Trees (Japanese), they break precious little new ground. Of the three artists, Inada’s 12 images are probably the most impressive. He uses a laborious and finicky process to coat glass negatives with photosensitive chemicals, then uses them to document low-key scenes of gardens and bas-reliefs. With their carefree brown stains, scratched surfaces, and champagne-bubble imperfections, Inada’s works fit comfortably within the hot-hot-hot trend of neo-antiquarianism. As usual, Ewing’s curatorial radar is finely tuned. “Secret Gardens” is on view from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, to Saturday, July 6, at the Kathleen Ewing Gallery, 1609 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 328-0955. (Louis Jacobson)