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The “places” in Leigh Merrill’s exhibit “This Place” are quiet and unpopulated. Not to mention imaginary.
Merrill’s idea, to create realistic but faux landscapes, isn’t exactly new; Oliver Boberg and Thomas Demand, among others, have tried something similar, both by photographing scale models. Merrill uses a different technique—she digitally manipulates multiple photographic images to create composite landscapes—but the end result is similar, a parade of empty, but unexpectedly appealing, spaces.
One work features a building with a pale pink façade, a curved front and a circular, decorative window that suggests an old, deluxe movie palace. In Merrill’s rendition, it has gone to seed, surrounded by blue parking-space curbs labeled “police.”
In another piece, the walls of an out-of-the-way commercial cul-de-sac are painted a peppy shade of pink, but two large signs stare out blankly, devoid of any writing. Another image offers an odd mix of elements—a space-age payphone, cement elephant and lion lawn ornaments, and the mysterious graffiti, “Can’t Get Number Nine.”
About the closest one gets to seeing a human presence in Merrill’s world is in the detritus—plastic drugstore bags, for instance, and a table umbrella with what appears to be a Target logo on it.
Merrill, who is based in Dallas, also offers a few additional types of works in the exhibit, such as grouped candies seen from above, or dense images of botanical greenery. But the botanical images aren’t much more compelling than what’s on a package of printer paper you might pick up at Staples. Ultimately, it’s Merrill’s empty landscapes that hold an enigmatic power. None of them really stand out, but as snapshots of nowhere, they really aren’t supposed to.
Through Feb. 13 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW, Washington, D.C. Wed-Sat 12-6.