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22

wednesday

DNA: Something about it makes artists go crazy. Anselm Kiefer unloaded untold quantities of his own semen onto books and titled it 20 Years of Solitude. Tim Hawkinson built bird skeletons from his fingernail clippings and egg shells from his hair. Marc Quinn was recently in the news after his sculpture Self—a frozen mold of his head made from nine pints of his own blood—started melting. Given all this deoxyribonucleiphilia, it’s refreshing to see the works of Dennis Ashbaugh. For over 15 years, Ashbaugh has simply painted the stuff of life, transforming digital images of DNA sequences into outsized canvases that recall the majestic tonal washes of Rothko and the color striations of Newman. The “gene portraits” on display in “Hidden Codes” aren’t particularly stunning, but their peculiarities grow on you: If the catalog essay is to be believed, the “apocalyptic meltdown” effect of some of the pieces’ crackled surfaces were caused by Ashbaugh interring them underground. With no actual DNA smeared around here, there’s little chance of catching something, so appreciate the art from microscopically close distances from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, to Thursday, May 10, 2007, at the National Academy of Sciences’ Rotunda Gallery, 2100 C St. NW. Free. (202) 334-2436. (John Metcalfe)