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“Dark Matters,” the title for a show at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, can be read any number of ways. It might refer to subject matter—say, subjects of heightened political tension since Sept. 11. The phrase summons images of CIA black sites, unmanned Predator drones, or, in this show, Wayne Gonzales’ Pentagon, a pointillist painting of a digitally blurred aerial photograph of the Pentagon. “Dark matters” could also mean dark materials or substances, the kinds of things that absorb or negate light and visibility. Hence Roni Horn’s Some Thames—Group M (detail pictured), four images of light playing off the dark surface of the Thames River. With its rotating permanent-collection exhibitions, the Hirshhorn usually strives for crystal clarity, seen in its survey of colorful Minimalist works and a show DJed by John Baldessari. “Dark Matters” is more sinister, but also more playful. It’s a look into the permanent collection’s darker corners, literally and figuratively, to argue that what happens in the dark matters most in art.

“Dark Matters” is on view 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily to May 31 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Seventh Street and Independence Avenue NW. Free. hirshhorn.si.edu. (202) 633-1000.