Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Gopnik's Daily Pic: Best of FotoWeek DC

By Blake Gopnik

Every day this week, my Daily Pic will look at a single image from FotoWeek DC, Washington's annual festival of the photographic arts. Some of my FotoWeek favorites will also appear in the pages of the Post. An ongoing archive of my Daily Pics is at www.blakegopnik.com.

AnsettCap.jpg

For a picture that's almost a symphony in white, there's a lot going on in Richard Ansett's "Woman With Wire Cap #1," which won him second place in the "Single Image -- Fine Art" category of the FotoWeek DC International Awards, now on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.


One thing that's going on in Ansett's photo is its relationship to anything called "Symphony in White" -- from Whistler's first ideas about pictures-as-patterns in the 1870s to Barnett Newman's white-on-white abstractions from the '50s and '60s. That's modernism for you. And Ansett pushes back against it by adding pungent content: His all-white modernity isn't pure and pretty. It's about equipment and, maybe, science gone amok. Or maybe not.

A wall text tells us that Ansett's sitter is wired up to record her brain activity while she's exposed to pictures. Which means that she's rather like us, looking at this picture of her, and paying attention to our own brain states -- our thoughts; our feelings; our perceptions -- as we do so. For the time that this woman's being studied, modern science seems in the service of culture.

It even looks a bit like culture. The pure red, blue and green of Ansett's wires, on their white background, evoke the painted primaries of Mondrian's abstractions, translated into the RBG of the digital age. Their meanderings recall the drips and skeins of Pollock. The old woman's parchment face, in its white electrode cap, recalls elegant Dutch matrons in their white lace caps, in paintings by Rembrandt and his ilk.

For all its art-world froideur and its antiseptic, scientific gleam, Ansett's photo has that kind of sympathy, that kind of humanity.

Overall, the FotoWeek awards are a terrible disappointment. You've seen almost all their pictures many times before, in almost any publication you could name. The shot by Ansett, a commercial photographer from England, is one of the few that demands, and repays, closer looking.

As headquarters for FotoWeek DC, the Corcoran Gallery of Art will have free admission and extended hours through the end of the festival Nov. 13. It will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and until 9 p.m. Thursday. Call 202-639-1700 or visit www.corcoran.org and www.fotoweekdc.org.

By Blake Gopnik  | November 9, 2010; 9:53 AM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Museums  | Tags:  Daily Pic  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Glamour magazine honors 'Women of the Year'
Next: 2010 Kennedy Center Honors Watch: Haggard

No comments have been posted to this entry.

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company