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Jim Melchert breaks plates. But unlike Julian Schnabel, who used shards of broken crockery for expressionistic brio, Melchert carefully pieces his ceramic squares back together again, leaving cracks that read like deeply incised drawings. In Repair Series, five 17-and-a-half-inch square tiles, lined up in a row, have been covered with translucent sky-blue glaze. Cream-colored tile is visible through rectangular subtractive marks—places where masking tape held the broken tiles together prior to firing. The pastel colors and spare contours recall Richard Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park” series—no accident, given the years Melchert’s spent teaching and creating art in the San Francisco Bay Area. Less satisfying is Feathers of the Phoenix (Black), in which black and blue stripes transform a grid of cracked tiles into a network of crude, cartoonish feathers. When Melchert keeps it simple, his pieces sit cheekily between craft and high pictorial modernism; when he uses more ornamental motifs, things look just plain craftsy. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday to Sunday, Aug. 20, at American University’s Katzen Arts Center, Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues NW. Free. (202) 885-1300. (Jeffry Cudlin)