City Paper is not for tourists
Earlier this year, Terence Koh blasted a gallery of New York’s Whitney Museum with a 4,000-watt light bulb, daring viewers to risk their retinas by stealing a glance at the installation’s brilliant light source. Nelson Vergara has done nearly the opposite at Meat Market Gallery. Inside a makeshift black-box theater that fills most of the gallery’s space, the viewer finds almost nothing to fix his eyes on. But as the pupils dilate, barely perceptible outlines of a figure begin to emerge along one wall. Fleeting images of a nude woman, projected in red light, appear momentarily before fading away; in the seconds that pass between these peep shows, the viewer searches frantically for the light-curves of the woman’s body. It’s in these darkened moments that Vergara’s art does its work: The piece, titled “Anni,” plays off optics and—though Vergara is a bit blunt with it—sexuality in order to demonstrate the fetishization of the object. Time plays a role in the piece, as the viewer’s endurance of the darkness affects his perception of the regular intervals between film snippets; the breaks seem to run longer and longer. In the artist’s photographic works, time is the major component. Vergara tiles tiny images snapped over the course of hours or days on 11-by-17-inch prints. The prints look like photomosaics, each made up of one image repeated over and over, with naturally occurring gradations of light. The bar is high for photography that purports to show information, not just images; at the end of the day, so to speak, Vergara is only showing the viewer scenes in time lapse. The exhibition is on view from noon to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 3 p.m. Sundays, to sUNDAY, oCT. 28, at Meat Market Gallery, 1636 17th St. NW. Free. (202) 328-6328.