- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 10, 2001

Annie Leibovitz's photographs have returned to Washington. This time, her work is visiting the David Adamson Gallery on Seventh Street NW.

The photographer's "Annie Leibovitz: Women" drew 175,000 visitors during its four-month stay at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which ended Feb. 28, 2000. Designed as a collective portrait of today's women, the show featured writer Toni Morrison, baseball pitcher Ila Borders, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and sculptor Louise Bourgeois.

Miss Leibovitz, 51, also contributed to "The Way Home," a photo exhibit about the homeless that was at the Corcoran in 1999.

The photographer began her career in the 1960s with shots of rockers for Rolling Stone. She regularly shoots portraits and fashion for Vogue, originated prize-winning ad campaigns for the Gap and American Express, and covered the siege of Sarajevo and the O.J. Simpson trial.

Her series on female nudes at the Adamson Gallery began as a commercial commission for the Pirelli 2000 calendar. Pirelli Ltd. is the British tire manufacturer known for its sexy calendars. Miss Leibovitz gave Pirelli very different images this time. She determinedly emphasized the female form's power and beauty — as well as its flaws.

Recognized principally as a portraitist, Miss Leibovitz chose to photograph torsos, or what she calls "body studies." They are reminiscent of the simplicity and beauty of classic Greek statuary — and not just because most of the heads are cut off. Her figures breathe the godlike perfection the Greeks believed resided in themselves.

The resemblance ends there. Most are white-and-black nudes emerging from dark backgrounds. They could be called "nocturnes" with their reflective "moonlight," which turns some forms into a pearly alabaster.

The image of Terese Capucilli of the Martha Graham Dance Company is one of the show's most striking.

Miss Leibovitz beamed her lights on one of the most distinctive movements of dancers — stretching. The sitting Miss Capucilli reaches for her left leg and foot with her upturned left hand.

The light models the torso, tucked-in right arm and extended leg, and left hand.

Miss Leibovitz also picks up exquisitely rendered details such as the pink of the ears and lines on the inside of the hand. She emphasizes Miss Capucilli's physical exertions by showing protrusions — the veins of the dancer's forehead, her ribs and her topmost vertebrae.

This is the most intensely lighted of the 16 Iris prints exhibited here. The Iris ink-jet printer process allows for soft and impressionistic color prints. Miss Leibovitz chose variations of blues, turquoises and greens for these poetic evocations.

The photo of Lauren Grant, a dancer with the Mark Morris Dance Group, is softer and more abstract. The photographer lights her from above, as with Miss Capucilli, to structure her body and forward leg.

The color shadings of soft blues against the deep black background intensifies the poetry. Manipulations in the Iris print process make these subtleties possible.

Miss Leibovitz can transform a nude into an almost two-dimensional design reminiscent of Henri Matisse's late cutouts. She photographed model Alek Wek from the side as a black totemic goddess.

The photographer also presents Miss Wek as a meditative goddess. She is shown through a softly diffused light, sitting frontally. The light picks up the bones of her necks, her breast and the fronts of her rounded and quietly crossed arms.

Miss Leibovitz depicts the power of athletes, such as sprinter-hurdler Jacqui Angyepong, through varying postures and skin textures.

The sprinter sits quietly in one. She stands starkly frontal in another, cut off at the top at her bosom and at the lower edge with the bottoms of the thighs. A third shows her in motion, with sweat pouring from her body.

Mr. Adamson, who directs David Adamson Editions in addition to the gallery, worked with Miss Leibovitz on the Iris prints of the nudes. He also created all 140 prints of the "Women" exhibit for her.

He says she chose him for the "Women" because she wanted a consistent look to the show. It also was a Random House book.

"She is very rigorous, very demanding — in the good sense of the word. She has a particular vision that she won't let go of, and it takes a lot of proofs to get it," Mr. Adamson says.

Mr. Adamson says Miss Leibovitz next is doing a book on the music industry. As of now, she has conquered the nude, that most difficult of subjects.

She also pushed it a long way with today's photographic and printing techniques. Compare her nudes with Alfred Stieglitz's nude portraits of Georgia O'Keeffe at the National Gallery of Art's Stieglitz exhibition and see the innovations Miss Leibovitz has made.WHAT: "Annie Leibovitz Nudes"WHERE: David Adamson Gallery, 406 Seventh St. NWWHEN: 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through March 31TICKETS: FreePHONE: 202/628-0257

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