Reviewed: “Landscapes In Passing” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The open road is so quintessentially American that it verges on cliché. The Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibit “Landscapes In Passing” follows this well-traveled route, with mixed results.

The exhibit features works by three photographers—Robbert Flick, Elaine Mayes and Steve Fitch—each of whom documented America’s landscape as seen from the automobile in the 1970s and early 1980s. None of the three is a household name; each is far less known than members of the New Topographics movement they share an ugly-is-beautiful aesthetic with, such as Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz.

Flick’s technique is the most inventive: He drove a car, taking photographs of the passing Los Angeles scenery at regular intervals, then organized the contact-print-sized images into rigid 10-by-10 grids. Some of the grids are cleverly constructed; one of Marina del Rey puts houses and beach in alternating columns, while another

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