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TO FEB. 15
Rare is the artist who can concisely and thoughtfully blend the pure expressionism of art with the hardheaded trade-offs of politics. Unfortunately, “Political Climate”—a 10-artist exhibition (an untitled work by Sharon Sanderson is pictured) that endeavors to “encourage a dialogue among area artists and heighten the public’s awareness of current events”—has difficulty meeting this threshold. Consider Renée Stout’s For Laura Bush and the Palm Beach Set: Half of the piece—a perfume bottle labeled “Oblivious”—is a clever takeoff on the pretensions of the fragrance industry. The other half—a sketch of the first lady endorsing the scent with the observation, “I don’t see war, or homelessness. I married well, so I can afford to be”—is just caricature. Other entries are more successful, such as iona rozeal brown’s Japanese-woodblock-style acrylic on paper featuring a woman wearing a Louis Vuitton burqa, Burberry sneakers, and flashing gang signs, or Lely Constantinople’s photographic collage of Washington’s 9th and V Streets NW—a lonely panorama of urban decay that is notable for its cheerful colors and the artist’s efforts to elongate the block. In fact, some of the most visually noteworthy works are the ones linked most tenuously to politics: To norteamericanos, the sociopolitical context of Ken Ashton’s Uruguayan photograph Intendente (Superintendent) will be a mystery, but the image’s grafitti-covered, half-torn-down building unexpectedly resolves itself into a flat, abstract-expressionist form. And Christine Carr’s untitled photograph of electrical transmission lines at dusk comes off less as a critique of the energy industry—if that, indeed, is what it is—than as a pleasing, pastel-hued reverie. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and by appointment, to Sunday, Feb. 15, at Conner Contemporary Art, 1730 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 588-8750. (Louis Jacobson)