Athena Tacha is perhaps best known for her large-scale outdoor environments. More recently, however, Tacha has focused her efforts on a smaller scale. She uses photography to document landforms and other surfaces in matrices that emphasize a sense of fluidity.
Tacha has traveled to places as far flung as Ethiopia, Iceland and Jordan to make multiple exposures of geological textures. She then prints stitched-together grids of those images on metallic paper.
Some of her pieces work better than others. In several of her works, the borders separating the individual images are too obvious—a significant distraction in an age when digital-imagery whizzes like Lucas Blalock have mastered the process of erasing blemishes through pixel manipulation.
A matrix of images of a waterfall in Namibia, for instance, is too choppily rendered to carry off Tacha’s desired illusion.
Tacha is more successful when she creates works that get the image borders to fade into the background. Take the piece from Iceland titled “StoneFlow” (bottom). It may show rock, but the ruffled surface it depicts could pass for stacked bales of drying tobacco leaves.
Meanwhile, “MudFlow” (top) depicts volcanic features in Sicily, with textures ranging from spread peanut butter to cracked desert floor. In this work in particular, the border lines aren’t distracting because the piece as a whole suggests NASA planetary imagery cobbled together in a blocky fashion. (Other works by Tacha not in the show, but visible in earlier catalogues on display at the gallery, also work more successfully; these include works that depict lava flows, glacial surfaces, sand dunes, sea foam and even gnarled tree branches.)
The exhibit also includes a few pieces that go off in an entirely different direction—small sculptures made from organic matter (middle). One, crafted from bird feathers, is too close to life to be anything but off-putting. More appealing are her works constructed from oyster shells, which are at once solid yet touchingly fragile.
Through March 19 at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW. (202) 328-0088. Thur.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.