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to july 29

“Animalia” is as creepy as it is densely packed. Twenty-one local, national, and international artists have crowded the walls and floors of Irvine Contemporary with images of animals—real, imagined, and hybridized with humans—ranging from playfully Disneyfied to disturbingly sexualized to, occasionally, taxidermized. Take Courtney Payne by Carlee Fernandez: An ice cube tray sits underneath the skin of a stuffed baby deer; the hide has been stretched and molded to fit the tray perfectly. In the front of the space, Dirk Westphal offers slick, Pop-ish prints of his own aquarium fish, seemingly floating in midair, set against stark white backgrounds. In Surfboard, c-prints of several of these ornamental domesticated breeds—designed solely for human aesthetic pleasure—have been grafted onto a fully functional surfboard. Both Fernandez and Westphal highlight the unnatural designs that humans impose on the natural environment and the animals that inhabit it, treating each as raw fodder to be manipulated. Throughout, curator Heather Russell shows what the Irvine aesthetic is all about: tidiness, craft, and kitsch. Edward del Rosario and Susan Jamison paint labored, slightly cartoonish figures against blank grounds to make surrealist-inspired fables; Orly Cogan and Kent Henricksen use cloth and embroidery toward much the same ends. There’s also graffiti-inspired work by Faile (Bunny Boy Ecstasy is pictured) and superflat animé-like paintings by Dalek. But despite the litany of familiar trends, the overall level of artistic assuredness and thematic unity make this an engaging, thought-provoking show. “Animalia” is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, through Saturday, July 29, at Irvine Contemporary, 1412 14th St. NW. Free. (202) 332-8767. (Jeffry Cudlin)