Cardboard doesn’t seem like the most auspicious of art materials, but three far-flung artists—-Artemis Herber of Germany, Steve Keene of the United States, and Valery Koshlyakov of Russia—-separately gravitated to it, and they now find themselves drawn together in the exhibit “Cardboard City.”

Each of the artists embraces their shared material’s creases and curls. Herber offers near-dystopian cityscapes: post-industrial relics of a grim future, thickly painted in shades from brick to blood and from battleship gray to fiery orange. A few of Herber’s pieces experiment with jutting 3D shafts (below), but the more visually appealing touches are subtler: patches of ripped-open corrugated patches that channel industrial roofs, and layered horizontal sections with parallel edges that suggest a view as seen through Venetian blinds.

Koshlyakov, for his part, produces monumental depictions of more classical views, such as a piazza in Rome. He often adds a cheeky vibe, as with the painting of Rouen’s cathedral—-an update of Monet’s famed portrayal of the edifice, limned in drips of white paint that resemble bird poo.

As for Keene, his works are Warholian agglomerations of caricaturey portraits, including one

that features repeated images of Abe Lincoln, another that riffs on The Rolling StonesSome Girls album cover and Chinese food takeout containers, and a third that portrays rows of Civil War soldiers. The soldiers march with a panoply of flags that echo those in Childe Hassam’s World War I-era parade paintings, but their footsteps are denoted by much more modern (and incongruous) Virginia landmarks, such as Tyson’s Galleria.

The exhibit aims to answer the question, “What will our cities of today look like tomorrow?” The works displayed don’t come close to providing an answer, but measured by the artists’ creativity in the face of such unappealing raw materials, they offer a whole lot more visual interest than your typical flattened box in a Dumpster.

The exhibit is on view to Sept. 27 at Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St NW.