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TO FEB. 28
If context is everything in art, then Laura Carton’s “Room Service” has it in spades. Viewed in a vacuum, Carton’s pixilated photographs show vacant spaces that range from the humdrum (a classroom featuring a globe, a desk, and mounted paintings of Honest Abe and George Washington) to the self-awaredly fake (a cemetery with flimsy headstones) to the faux-elegant (a sumptuous-looking, heavily curtained dining room with its table piled high with fine china and Thanksgiving decorations). What the viewer doesn’t see are the writhing bodies—twosomes, threesomes, and who-knows-what-somes—that Carton has digitally erased from these settings. The images in “Room Service” have in fact been downloaded straight from porno Web sites, with only the works’ titles—www.joyboys.com, www.smutlab.com, www.cherrypoppers.com—hinting at their provenance. Carton—a New York City–based artist who previously used fingerprint-dusting techniques to make cameraless impressions of her body parts—says she came up with the idea for “Room Service” while surfing Internet smut and finding herself bored by the sweaty participants but oddly drawn to the background details that few users ever notice. (One particularly puzzling setting features a copy of The Grapes of Wrath.) With a few exceptions—most notably the freshly mussed beds of www.doublewide.com (pictured)—the works on display are too visually static to accomplish Carton’s goal of laying bare the hidden hints of the scenes’ erased sexuality. But conceptually, the project is clever—and a few images are downright creepy, none more so than www.boink69.com: With its aging doctor’s examination chair, bottles of antiseptic, and an electric tool of unknown origin, the image suggests Josef Mengele more than it does Ron Jeremy. The show is on view from 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, Feb. 28, at Panhwa Art Studio, 1038 31st St. NW. Free. (202) 298-7010. (Louis Jacobson)