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Reading San Francisco

Even if you’ve never been to metro Los Angeles, you’ve probably experienced the demimonde that Jamie Wolf chronicles in “Los Angeles: A City of Motion.” Wolf haunts the kinds of places where movie directors go when they want footage that evokes the seedy side of L.A.—the kinds of settings that defined The Grifters, Barton Fink, and L.A. Confidential. Though she offers a few comparatively tranquil images (pictured) of backyard pools, gardens, and vintage automobiles, her dominant vibe, underscored by a washed-out color palette, is gothic unease: windows at dusk that emit a sickly, yellow glare; an old house that’s about to be demolished; the sign for an apartment building where the word “luxurious” is peeling off; and the odd tableau of an irritated mother and a grimacing young son at a lawnside lemonade stand. Wolf’s work is paired with that of Jan Potts, who uses similar material in metro San Francisco yet spins it more optimistically, by using classic black-and-white film and bold angles. In Potts’ “Reading San Francisco,” architecture exudes retro stylishness and resonates visually with an environment of overhead wires and plate-glass-window reflections. Potts’ untitled image of a sign announcing “The Orbit Cafe” may be the finest in either artist’s portfolio: The circular logo floats on an undefined gray wall that could easily pass for the sky at dusk—a far more eloquent visual pun, surely, than the restaurant’s proprietor ever intended. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, to Saturday, April 12, at District Fine Arts, 1726 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Free. (202) 328-9100. (Louis Jacobson)