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TO MAY 31
Pairing James F. Dicke II and Tom Baril in the same art space isn’t the most obvious idea; Baril is famous for making large-scale, sepia-toned photographs of flowers and skyscrapers, whereas Dicke paints miniature geometrical abstractions whose thick impastos shine with a near-enamelized texture. But the show at the Ralls Collection is unexpectedly pleasing, in part because of the gallery’s inspired decision to display the artists’ pieces side by side rather than segregating the work, as Ralls shows typically do. In the current exhibition, Baril lives up to his reputation as a photographer who’s more methodical than radical; the onetime printer for Robert Mapplethorpe recapitulates the botanicals and urban skylines that made his Ralls show in early 2000 a standout, branching out this time mainly to add some fuzzy-focused images of apples and waterfalls to the mix. But his most daring move is to tinker with two archaic photographic methods: the collodion-on-glass negative and the ambrotype, two unwieldy “wet-plate” processes that were already outdated by the 1880s. The results are mixed: Baril’s more complicated floral images (Two Roses is pictured) pale, literally, when reflected in the medium’s muddy tones, yet his simpler, more contrasted images—such as the marble bust in Ermes—shimmer with unexpected detail. Dicke’s horizonlike paintings might have become monotonous if they’d been exhibited by themselves, but when they’re sprinkled amid Baril’s unrelievedly sepia palette, they provide just enough color to ennoble both artists’ work. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, to Friday, May 31, at the Ralls Collection, 1516 31st St. NW. Free. (202) 342-1754. (Louis Jacobson)