The show is a kind of wonderland: Fifty cyanotypes, all made in 1998, all untitled, and all portraying flowers, seeds, soil, and water from Monet’s garden at Giverny, France, neatly line the walls of the narrow gallery. They are the creations of Pipo Nguyen-duy, a political refugee from Vietnam and now a professor of photography at Oberlin College in Ohio. One can’t help but admire the sheer beauty of the ghostly images, each hovering in space like a mirage, each coolly composed and self-sufficient, each alive with immediacy and formal verve. The specimens sparkle like stars in a cyan sky. However, this prettiness is deceptive: We are looking at corpses. Elemental nature has lost its élan vital, is reduced to a denatured Hadean shadow. Like pages from a botanical textbook, the cyanotypes demand disinterested analysis and study. Nguyen-duy reinforces this sense by exhibiting a
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