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D.C. native D.B. Stovall gets unnecessarily defensive about his photography of vintage and aging architecture. “Calling it ‘old buildings,’” he writes in the wall text of his new exhibit at Hillyer Art Space, “is selling it far too short.”
But Stovall needn’t worry. While many photographers have made images of “old buildings,” from Walker Evans to Bernd and Hilla Becher to William Christenberry to Camilo Jose Vergara, Stovall’s are a worthy addition to the genre.
Stovall’s images, taken with a 4-by-5-inch-view camera, are notable for their color, which often echoes the hues of Stephen Shore’s classic 1970s images: Both Shore and Stovall respect dated facades, and they both have a thing for late-afternoon light.
“Cumberland, Maryland, August 2012″ (middle) features a luminous orange wall with an oddly delicate arch over an absent window; “Lancaster, Pennsylvania, January 2012” includes unexpected, echoing curves from a tattoo-parlor sign and its shadow; and “Richmond, Virginia, October 2012” documents a perfectly symmetrical tire store (bottom) whose unusual shade of blue exterior paint that almost exactly matches the color of the sky. (Oddly for a Virginia location, it has a large Chicago Bears sign.)
Occasionally Stovall stumbles, as with his portrayal of a tire outlet in Hazleton, Pa., that includes two signs partially obscured by the direct reflection of sunlight. Fortunately, another Hazleton image benefits from being much darker: In a pleasingly enigmatic puzzle, a heavily shadowed building appears to be covered by pinstripes, but it’s impossible to tell whether they’re made of neon or the subtle reflection of a low-on-the-horizon sun.
Also on view: Chandi Kelley’s photograph natural reality tweaked by added elements, such as gold dust, and Pamela Viola’s abstracted, photo-based, watercolory works printed on tactile paper.
The exhibit is on view to Nov. 27 at Hillyer Art Space.