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TO JAN. 16, 2000
In British novelist J.G. Ballard’s Hello America, almost all North Americans leave the continent after a catastrophic global energy crisis in the 1980s and ’90s. Overburdened by huge immigrant populations, the governments of South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia install a dam at the Bering Strait and redirect the ocean’s currents, altering Earth’s climate significantly: Crops are grown within the Arctic Circle, but much of the former United States is transformed into a desert. As the novel opens, a scientific expedition sails into New York Harbor, sent to the long-deserted continent from Plymouth, England. Traveling westward, the expedition encounters a hallucinatory—and strangely beautiful—panorama of derelict Howard Johnsons, abandoned vehicles, creosote bushes, and seemingly endless stretches of golden sand. Wyomissing, Pa., printmaker Evan Summer’s works look like visual documents of this fictional journey: Massive, featureless, rigorously geometric architectural forms occupy desolate, darkened, grainily rendered landscapes; the decaying remains of human endeavor are everywhere, but people never appear. (Landscape VIII is pictured.) Inspired by the hydroelectric-plant-dominated landscapes around Niagara Falls that he saw while growing up in Upstate New York, Summer’s meticulously worked prints (some take as long as a year to complete) recall both fellow Pennsylvanian Charles Sheeler’s precisionist renderings of industrial forms and the spookiest works of any number of 19th-century landscapists. Summer shares a vaguely environmentalist pessimism with both those Rousseau-damaged romantics and Ballard, and their celebrations of nature’s resilience remind us that humankind’s domination of our planet is both tenuous and temporary. On view Friday to Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., to Sunday, Jan. 16, 2000, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 17th and New York Avenue NW. $3 (suggested donation). (202) 639-1700. (Leonard Roberge)