It almost sounds like a riddle from the Sphinx: Name something that is dark but contains light, is both menacing and elegant, absorbs heat and exudes cold, and can symbolize death or prosperity. Black makes for interesting paradoxes, and for G Fine Art’s “Black,” the gallery features 22 artists who tinker with the word’s many meanings. In Sam Gilliam’s Carbon Bone/Cherry, the deepest shade of black (which by definition absorbs the most light) reflects it from a glossy acrylic panel, like a dark mirror. Angelo Filomeno and Cecily Brown play off of the color’s affiliation with all things sinister, both depicting skulls; Filomeno’s is embroidered and belongs to a strange monster, while images of children playing form Brown’s lithograph of a human skull. Black is a path to nothingness in Ivan Navarro’s Assembly Line, a mirror trick that turns part of the gallery floor into an endless abyss. But the absorptive qualities of black make it the perfect color for the spongy, brainy block 4.5 Cubic Inches (Volume of the Inside of My Head). Few of the artists address “black” as a signifier of racial identity, but Hank Willis Thomas blends advertising with abolitionism in Absolut Power, filling a bottle of Absolut vodka with the diagrams of passengers on slave ships. Though little beyond color ties the images together, “Black” draws you, like light, in.

“BLACK” IS ON VIEW FROM 11 A.M. TO 6 P.M. TUESDAY THROUGH SATURDAY TO FRIDAY, NOV. 28 AT G FINE ART, 1515 14TH ST. NW. FREE. (202) 462-1601.

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