July 16, 2007

Ken Ashton at Civilian Art Projects

I visited photographer Ken Ashton's admirable show at Civilian Art Projects (CAP) late last week. It's a selection of images from his ongoing 'Megalopolis' series that memorializes the vast array of quotidian urban spaces we normally take for granted: backyards, alleys, warehouse districts and low-rise storefronts. He captures intense natural light (seemingly often daybreak or deep afternoon shadows), but the dramatic illumination is not so much for beauty or sentiment. Rather, it particularizes Ashton's subjects -- makes them fresh and real. We see our cities with the stone cold lucidity of a hangover. (You might not know that Ashton's work is included in two recent books: Common Ground: Discovering Community in 150 Years of Art, Selections from the of Julia J. Norrell Collection and Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 To The Present by Deborah Willis.) Lily Cox-Richard's looming, impressive 'At Stake and Rider', also on view at CAP, shifts attention from the urban present to the rural and the past. Fragments of classical architecture support an apparently calcified split rail fence that juts through the back gallery. Both artists will be at the gallery on Saturday, July 21st at 3 PM for a discussion and reception.

While I was at the gallery, I had an interesting talk with CAP's director Jayme McLellan about politics and art in Washington. More on that later. It is, however, noteworthy that CAP has already done some interesting programming on Darfur and on government surveillance. Both events were well attended, but there was very light representation from DC's art community. Strange… It reminds me of a piece I wrote a long time ago about politics and Washington art for the Corcoran's 1985 The Washington Show. No link for that - it was pre-web, but nothing's changed. Anybody remember The Washington Show?

1 comment:

mike said...

Ken Ashton. I see that man on bicycles around the United States.