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TO NOV. 21
Can a political caricaturist succeed if he never really nails the physiognomy of George W. Bush? If he’s Fred Harper, the answer is yes—at least most of the time. Harper, 37, has published sharply rendered color drawings on a regular basis in such publications as the Washington Monthly, the Wall Street Journal, and the Week. (He’s also done work for the Washington City Paper.) Some of Harper’s takes are dead-on: Donald Rumsfeld blithely lugging orange-suited inmates in cages at Guantánamo Bay, Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat grimly but cooperatively building a wall to separate themselves, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates swearing on the Bible to tell the truth, their raised hands casting shadows of crossed fingers and thumbed noses. But whereas Harper’s gloriously creased Joe Lieberman and jar-necked Howard Dean are fine distillations, his faces of Bush vary wildly without ever hitting their target. Fortunately, Harper’s inspired scenarios carry the day even when his depictions do not: as a sombrero-wearing president slyly bringing a welcome basket to a Hispanic family’s doorstep; as a taxi driver in Iraq whose meter reads $87,000,000,000; and, in a work called Different Tune, as an immobile figure on an otherwise hopping dance floor, listening placidly to a dorky-looking Walkman. (A Shell Game is pictured.) Harper doesn’t stint with John Kerry, either. One work pairs the Massachusetts senator at swordpoint with Bush (Kerry is right out of Rambo, Bush out of Top Gun); another features hunky lifeguard John Edwards carrying his battered, seaweed-sodden running mate. A couple of Harper’s tableaux are incomprehensible without the stories they originally accompanied, but when he brings his A game, the works stand on their own. The show is on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays, to Sunday, Nov. 21, at Banning + Low, 3730 Howard Ave., Kensington. Free. (301) 933-0700. (Louis Jacobson)