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Great artists often paint what they know. If the paintings and sculptures of Per Kirkeby, now on display at the Phillips Collection, have a particularly rough and rocky element to them, it’s because Kirkeby is doing just that. The Danish artist is a trained geologist and spent part of the ’60s researching geologic formations in the Arctic. Although he now focuses on explaining geology through film, painting, and sculpture, it’s clear just by glancing at his work that natural formations still influence him. It’s particularly resonant in “Dark Cave”—a rugged 1967 painting of a cave in the Yucatan—and in an untitled work from 2006 that presents an angular take on a body of water that’s been shaped over time. His sculptures, crafted from bronze, also possess a natural quality, as if they’re smaller representations of stone structures. A slab of rock in any other context might be forgettable, but Kirkeby’s dual training makes it a little worthier of contemplation.
The exhibition is on view 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays at the Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW. $10-$12. (202) 387-2151. phillipscollection.org.