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To June 17
Avish Khebrehzadeh’s artworks tend to be awfully frail-looking. Her show at Conner Contemporary two years ago offered giant sheets of paper stained with shellac and olive oil and drawn on with tentative, meandering graphite lines—resulting in wan, barely there dream images. That show also highlighted Khebrehzadeh’s vastly superior—if equally reductive—work with video and animation. For her new show, Khebrehzadeh’s operating on an intimate scale—around 16 inches by 20 inches—that’s more commensurate with her mark-making. These are subtractive oil paintings: White contours are scratched into the black surfaces of unframed wood panels. Washes of cool green and blue add subdued atmospherics, hovering on the lightly distressed surfaces of each piece. In The Rhino and the Stairs, a rhinoceros stands in profile, defined by a few yellowish-green strokes of paint; it rests on a low platform in the center of a great empty room, defined by a baroquely patterned floor and two grand staircases. The piece looks like a stage set or diorama and seems to anticipate some surreal happening. The lone video here, Theater (pictured), depicts a cartoon swimmer slowly removing his shirt and immersing himself in water. It steals the show—mostly because the layers of time and process required for animation temper Khebrehzadeh’s hunger for spontaneity and simplicity. One can’t help but think that her new paintings look a bit like printmaking plates—and that the additional hours required to pull prints from them would only enrich these slightly wispy images. “Avish Khebrehzadeh” is on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment, Tuesday through Saturday, to Saturday, June 17, at Conner Contemporary, 1730 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202)588-8750. (Jeffry Cudlin)