TO AUG. 27

Academy 2001–2005

For the fifth straight year, Conner Contemporary Art is mounting an exhibition of works by recent local art-school graduates—15 to be exact. Get ready for a buzzkill: Some of the most impressive works have a depressing, even morbid, undercurrent. Virginia Warwick not only photographs a dead mouse, she also pairs the print with a 6-foot-by-6-foot matrix (pictured) of tiny, asymmetrical, mouse-sized coffins made of wood and fabric—what the dead rodents would get, presumably, if we humans cared enough about them. Patrick Kelly also grapples with animal death, fabricating a detailed diorama-style model of North Carolina’s Tar River just after a hurricane; individually sculpted pig carcasses litter the river, which has turned a dark shade of black, perhaps in reference to enormous pig-feces lagoons produced by the local pork industry. Maki Maruyama contributes three oil paintings featuring figures whose arms end in rounded points rather than in hands, next to objects that are useless to them, such as pencils and telephones. Jason Bulluck uses concrete and steel to sculpt a depressing scene of public housing and its (literally) faceless inhabitants, and Jenna McCracken contributes Dissolve, a performance project in which she creates ceramic objects for the express purpose of placing them in jars of solution that slowly erodes them over time. At least two Technicolor works provide a bit of gaiety: Karin Horlbeck’s digital print of a pixelated landscape and Julia Rommel’s exquisitely rendered (and monumental) acrylic stripe painting, which has a surprising degree of surface texture. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, Aug. 27, at Conner Contemporary Art, 1730 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 588-8750. (Louis Jacobson)