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TO DEC. 18
At the Numark Gallery’s storefront space in downtown D.C., the floor-to-ceiling shades are demurely drawn to shield passers-by from 20 photographs by Washington-based artist Chan Chao. The gallery’s decision is not surprising: Chao’s large color prints (mostly 52 by 39-and-a-half inches) are all of women who are nude from head to thigh—sometimes even further. Chao, heretofore best known for his portraits of rebels in Burma, forgoes the gauzy Vaselined-lens treatment for his models, instead casting a gaze that’s mostly clinical—what Richard Avedon might have produced if he had photographed nudes in color. (Kelly Rosebeck, March 26 is pictured.) For Chao’s subjects, every detail is visible: prominent hand veins, chest freckles, blotchy areolae, underarm hair, navel piercings, wrist and crotch tattoos, and a whole lot of goose bumps. Indeed, every one of Chao’s models—typically friends of his, many of them from the Washington area—looks as if they were standing in a walk-in refrigerator—which might explain the look of mild alarm on many of their faces. Chao may think he’s breaking new ground in this unblinking portrayal of the female form, but warts-and-all views of women have been au courant at least since Bruegel. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, Dec. 18, at the Numark Gallery, 625 E St. NW. Free. (202) 628-3810. (Louis Jacobson)