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TO OCT. 22
After Chuck Close’s roughly four decades as an art-world star, it’s so easy to identify his work—look for the extreme facial close-up and you’re all set—that any retrospective seems unlikely to reveal new themes. Yet “Chuck Close: A Couple Ways of Doing Something” at the Adamson Gallery satisfies in one crucial regard: Close literally adds a new dimension to his work—and in jaw-dropping fashion. The show includes a number of modern-day daguerreotypes—an idea that was fresh during its first visit to Washington (in the 2001 Corcoran biennial), though it now seems undercut by the mirror-surfaced photographs’ unnecessarily shadowy mounting and their documentation of rather pretentious intellectuals and artists. More intriguing is a relief print that portrays composer Philip Glass’ mug shot in a puffy-textured rendition that recalls Vik Muniz’s portraits made from chocolate. But the true killer items are four holograms of Close’s head (one is pictured). The portrayals are breathtakingly detailed—you can see individual facial pores and beard hairs—but what’s really impressive is the way the images suggest that Close is giving you a cold, hard stare in flesh and blood. It’s like looking at a severed, cryogenically preserved head—more realistic in may ways than an actual sculpture, and a hell of a lot more creepy. The holograms, all made in 2004, conjure up the same bristling vibe as Close’s first major works. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Adamson Gallery, 1515 14th St. NW. Free. (202) 232-0707. (Louis Jacobson)