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TO JAN. 10, 2004

The Kathleen Ewing Gallery has evidenced a fondness for meandering-critter exhibitions—but its current show is eclectic even by Ewing standards. The nominal headliner is Michael Eastman, whose brown-toned photographs of horses in action—all flaring nostrils and kicking forelegs—are slickly produced and designed a little too transparently for the holiday market. More compelling is the work of Finnish photographer Pentti Sammallahti: low-key, distinctly horizontal, black-and-white images in which the (presumably very patient) photographer has willed groups of animals into unexpectedly poetic arrangements. Each Sammallahti image is more puzzling than the last: a preternaturally calm assortment of cats watching fish; a massive, orderly conglomeration of waterfowl; a regally posed, snow-white bunny perfectly centered amid wintry brambles; and even a pair of Nepalese dogs caught stretching themselves into a sly approximation of the yin and yang. Less subtle, but equally intriguing, are Walter Schels’ animal portraits. Though the aggressively head-on, blank-backdropped images rip off their aesthetics from Richard Avedon, they save themselves by documenting animals—an owl, a sheep, a goat, a rabbit (pictured), and a goose—with deadpan hilarity. The exhibition also includes a too-limited smattering of animal works by such artists as Frank DiPerna, Allan Janus, Roberta Marovelli, Rosamond Purcell, Grace Robertson, and Eileen Toumanoff, but Sammallahti and Schels are more than enough to carry the show. The show is on view from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, Jan. 10, 2004, at the Kathleen Ewing Gallery, 1609 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 328-0955. (Louis Jacobson)