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TO JULY 31
No one has ever accused Carrie Mae Weems of being subtle. The African-American photographer and conceptual artist has made a career of undertaking bold and often compelling projects about race and gender in America. Her most recent work, “The Jefferson Suite,” continues in this vein, mixing in threads of technology and DNA science as well—a move that, unfortunately, diffuses her ordinarily knife-sharp focus. “The Jefferson Suite” is installed in G Fine Art’s temporary Blagden Alley space—a converted garage hung with a series of nearly floor-to-ceiling muslin sheets that Weems has printed with photographic-based images. (Backs in a Line is pictured.) The wispily translucent sheets are skillfully produced and display a fragility that’s heightened by their extreme sensitivity to small breezes in the gallery; a slightly off-putting soundtrack of minimalist jazz adds to the feeling of self-containment. The problem comes in what is usually Weems’ strong suit: her iconography. Some of her efforts to cross-fertilize race and gender with genetic engineering are reasonable—images of a girl playing with a baboon, Dolly the sheep, the first “eugenic” baby, and the first (black) defendant executed solely on the basis of DNA evidence. But the project becomes unsustainable when it seeks to point fingers at such villains as Darwin (would she rather the world have remained wedded to creationism?), biotech entrepreneurs (represented, bizarrely, by a photograph from a decades-old ticker tape parade on Wall Street), and side-by-side “re-enactments” not just of Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his slave Sally Hemings (weighty) but also of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair (just cheesy). The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, July 31, at G Fine Art, 926 N St. NW. Free. (202) 333-0300. (Louis Jacobson)