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Once upon a time, the collaborative photographic team of Susan Eder and Craig Dennis produced works of whimsy.
In 2005, the pair mounted an exhibit at the Marsha Mateyka Gallery that featured representations of an entirely new font (“New Cloud Roman”) they’d made from photographs of clouds shaped like every letter, digit and punctuation mark. They also photographed unusual patterns in slices of cinnamon-swirl bread.
Now, a decade on, Eder and Dennis are back with an exhibit at Mateyka, but this time their works are more clinical than quirky.
One of the three series in the current exhibit—-credited solely to Eder—-features images of clovers that have four, five or six leaves. Such examples occur “approximately once for every 10,000-20,000 normal specimens,” the artists explain. “They are reproductive errors, yet have been considered fortuitous for millennia.”
The plants in question may be minor treasures, but the artistic treatment they get is rather humdrum. Their leaves are spotted, faded and pockmarked, and they’re photographed without particular elan. Another of Eder’s series features side-by-side images of orchid blossoms that highlight visible differences between natural and genetically modified versions (below).
Such treatment may support the series’ taxonomical approach, but the vibe is off-puttingly cool. While the orchids come off as somewhat more appealing than the clovers—-in winning hues of pink and purple, they’re posed against impenetrable black backgrounds—-the end result still suggests a charmless botanical-lab mugshot.
The one series in the exhibit that retains a bit of the pair’s old flair is titled “Hide & Seek.” The series, credited as a collaboration, consists of diptychs that pair massively enlarged images of butterfly wings (top).
Not only are the colors of this series compelling—-rich blues, bold reds, and nested circles of beige, yellow, and orange—-but so are the textures. Some suggest a lightly tousled bedspread, while others look like gossamer bird feathers that might be used as interior decorations. These works may not be as intellectually stimulating as Eder’s and Dennis’ old cloud images, but there’s something to be said for blowing up appealing textures to larger-than-life proportions.
Through April 4 at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW, (202) 328-0088.