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Marked by a tantalizing Neapolitan cake done in pastel, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s “Graphic Masters III” celebrates a frequently overlooked form: the simple drawing. Peter Saul’s Untitled (Bathroom) features a cacophony of bathtubs and toilets, interspersed with the odd dismembered leg. The scene may sound gory, but the drawing’s rudimentary, childlike lines and bright colors—rendered in the most humble of media, crayon—lend the drawing a cheerful vibe. In the charcoal and watercolor Inverted Letter Q, Claes Oldenburg depicts the letter as you’ve never seen it before, both flesh-toned and fleshy. The accompanying description compares the image to a “bodylike form,” but let’s call a spade a spade—what it really resembles is an asshole. There are some misses, to be sure: a sunflower still-life that would look more at home at a B&B; an Escheresque drawing without the surrealism. But all in all, if you can find the small, three-room exhibition in the maze that is the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery, you’ll find some real gems here, too.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW 11:30 A.M. TO 7 P.M. DAILY TO AUG. 8 AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM, 8TH AND F STREETS NW. FREE. (202) 633-7970.