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TO APRIL 17
Diane Cook and Len Jenshel, a New York City–based husband-and-wife team, have photographed aquariums and their scaly residents from Asia to Europe to the Caribbean. Their offerings—nearly three dozen of which are now on display at the Kathleen Ewing Gallery—would have seemed even more impressive had Ewing not mounted a similarly themed exhibit of work by Henry Horenstein less than a year ago. Unlike Horenstein, who focuses on captive sea creatures and their winningly sinuous shapes, Cook and Jenshel often capture their aquatic animals interacting with the human visitors who have come to ogle them. Unfortunately, these efforts result in a mixed bag; many images lack spark, and those that have energy are often undercut by snarkiness, such as a shot featuring a gaudily dressed tourist who could pass for a Duane Hanson sculpture. More interesting are a handful of images that cast a gimlet eye at the animals’ faux-realistic surroundings, depicting painted palm trees and toy classical ruins looking as artificial as the carefully choreographed fancies of Arthur Tress’ Fish Tank Sonata series. Cook, working in black-and-white, and Jenshel, working in color, produce some fine abstract images—swarming schools of fish, light rays diffracted through water, and bubbling evanescences rising from the aquarium floor. But their cleverest pieces are those undergirded by a subtle sense of humor: a punning photograph of a manta ray swimming next to rays of light (pictured), one of a starfish that seems to be jauntily stretching itself, an image of a woman looking at jellyfish whose bells mirror, in color and shape, her bright red hair. The show is on view from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, April 17, at the Kathleen Ewing Gallery, 1609 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 328-0955. (Louis Jacobson)