Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lewis Baltz: Prototypes/Ronde de Nuit

Where: National Gallery of Art, West Building

When: through July 2011

July 2011 was a banner month for exhibit closings here in DC. I don't know if it's just coincidence, but some months have lots of shows closing, and other months have very few. I felt like I was behind the 8 ball the whole month, trying to get to everything before it was gone for good. Now, however, I'm done with the July offerings, and have August's four shows to see - a far more manageable number!

My final July show was this exhibit of Lewis Baltz photographs. He worked in California in the 1960s and 1970s, and his pictures highlight the increasing homogenization of suburban America. All the photos are in black and white, and the emphasis is on geometric shapes, rather than on the distinguishing features of a location. It's a good thing that there are tags next to each piece, identifying the place, as otherwise you'd have no idea where the picture was taken. I take Baltz' point; America is losing it's distinctive places; everything is becoming bland and uniform. The problem is that this makes for a pretty bland and homogenized show.

Richard Serra and Donald Judd also have pieces in this exhibit. One of the Judd pieces is a plexiglass box, with green light streaming out of it. I can't say I was terribly enthralled with this piece, but at least it was some color.

Ronde de Nuit refers to a mural Baltz did composed of photographs of a French police station. The fragmented picture is meant to represent the fragmented nature of modern society. Again, I see the point, but there's just no story in the mural. Perhaps it's hopelessly unsophisticated of me to want my art to tell me a story, but a bunch of pictures of random wires just don't speak to me.

Verdict: Give this show a miss unless you're a fan of Baltz. There's so much else to run out and see before the end of the month, that this feels like a waste of time.

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