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Frank Hallam Day at Addison/Ripley Fine Art
“Why would anyone photograph trees?” Frank Hallam Day asks in the introduction to his new exhibit at Addison/Ripley Fine Art. “They have been photographed since the beginning,” he goes on. “You might think there wouldn’t be much new to say about them.” In his current exhibit, Day makes two attempts to provide a fresh perspective on our arboreal neighbors, and if the goal was to create something that looks different, he’s succeeded. Of the two series, the one with the more conventional approach features photographs of D.C.’s celebrated cherry blossoms—but with the familiar pink leaves seen at night, when they are largely drained of color. The most impressive work from this series is a highly formalistic depiction of a rectangular D.C. fountain ringed by the signature blossoms. The more inventive of Day’s two approaches involves close-ups of tree trunks, mostly at the point where the trunk transforms into either roots or branches. Sometimes the trees themselves provide interesting raw material, especially “Trees #96 (South Beach),” which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Three Graces of Renaissance painting and sculpture. More often, it’s the artist’s visual transformations of humble bark that shine. Some works take a page from pop art with their blocks of solid background color, notably “Trees 81 (Oaxaca),” which sets barely detailed branches against a bold backdrop of indigo. In the online catalog, some of the images could easily pass for sculptures, while the blue-hued “Trees #205 (Rosslyn)” has a texture that feels positively, and unexpectedly, painterly. Through April 16 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. addisonripleyfineart.com. Free.