By its title alone, Addison/Ripley’s exhibit “Infrastructure” suggests the ultimate wonky D.C. art exhibit. And to be honest, there’s something pretty nerdy about looking at photographs and paintings of highway asphalt, drawbridges and “cooling modules.”
Fortunately, the exhibits curator is Trevor Young, a local painter whose canvases over the years have consistently plucked compelling needles from the haystack of overbuilt America.
Young contributes one work of his own to the exhibit—an eerie nocturne lit by a strong glow of something unseen. However, Young’s most important achievement is wisely choosing the other artists to share it.
Following themes explored by Aaron Siskind and Minor White, D.C. photographer Cynthia Connolly offers a series of no-frills, black-and-white photographs and handmade postcards that document white X shapes, mostly on roadways. Collectively, they suggest the markings of alien visitors, but the viewer knows they are all too human.
As a painter, Andrew Fish seems to channel the curator’s own broad-brushstroke style, dreamily portraying a city crosswalk from above in one canvas. So does Stephen Magsig, whose “Under the FDR” showcases his creamy style of depicting peeling paint.
The ubiquitous William Christenberry makes an appearance as well, in the form of a quintessentially rust-and-cola-themed bus shelter combine, while Stephen Mallon offers a few large-scale photographs of byzantine agglomerations of pipes and vents that suggest the (more polished) work of Edward Burtynsky and Andreas Gursky.
Least compelling of the artists is Valeri Larko, who is represented by not one but two painted renditions of the same urban McDonald’s franchise; both flag-bedecked portrayals seem too peppy for an exhibit notable for its cool distance.
Ultimately, the finest works in the exhibit are the two by photographer Frank Hallam Day, a key member of the Addison/Ripley stable.
Day’s 1994 image “Single Pylon” depicts a partially submerged concrete stanchion, framed in such a way to suggest the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
And his 2016 photograph “Ship Hull #52” continues a delightfully inventive series documenting decaying maritime surfaces as if they were Mark Rothko canvases. This example in the exhibit is so visually mysterious that it looks like a painting—which is somehow appropriate, given that it’s a photograph that documents the fleeting nature of paint itself.
Through Oct. 15 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202-338–5180) Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.