In John Brown’s return engagement at Cross Mackenzie Gallery, the Washington photographer picks back up his previous subject matter—-delicate portrayals of trees—-but with a welcome tweak or two.
Brown’s 2010 exhibit at the gallery consisted of grids of dreamlike photographic assemblages documenting an arbor of vines, season by season, while his contribution to a 2012 group show was work showing gnarled tree branches on watercolor paper.
But for this exhibit, Brown moved in two new, and opposite, directions as he documented a variety of tree species in Tanzania—-Acacia, Sausage, Umbrella, Baobab, Almond, Tulip, and Palm—-including many whose shapes tilt as much horizontal as vertical.
In some photographs, Brown strips down the tree to a simple black silhouette against pure white. His other approach is even more appealing: subtly detailed images of trees amid the savanna, using a sepia tone that makes them look like they came from the 19th century.
Framing is important to Brown’s art, though with uneven results. When he breaks up a single image into separately framed pieces, the result is too distracting, and is hostage to imperfect alignments of the frames. But the framing works well when he creates a matrix out of the sepia-toned photographs, and when he makes a delicate, green-tinted triptych of almond trees that suggests a piece of art nouveau.
Through April 9 at Cross Mackenzie Gallery, 2026 R St NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 333-797