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TO SEPT. 7
You want highbrow? Well, you won’t find it now on display at D.C.’s Museum of Contemporary Art. In the museum’s aptly titled “Strange Days” exhibition, you’ll find Jess Feury’s heavily impastoed, hypercolor portraits of wacky people and Ben M. Belghachi’s documentary photographs of Halloween drag (queen) races. You might also peek into the booth where a continuous-loop video unspools a performance-art piece in which Gabriela Pohl plays a 17th-century pirate. Or take a gander at Bertram Ulrich’s Smack Down series of paintings—small, unframed portraits of burly wrestlers—and Albert Charles Schweitzer’s cartoony, totemic works, affixed with such typewritten pearls of wisdom as “RELAX DONT DO IT IMWEARIN DEPENDS.” When you come to the floral still lifes and home interiors by painter Karen Francis, you may think you’ve finally returned to this planet—until you hit Francis’ The Wild Wild West, in which she imagines Stetsons and UFOs, side by side, blasting off from a ghostly prairie landscape. Finally, you arrive at a series of deep-blue oil paintings by Channing Houston. They are the finest works in the show: luminous, impressionistic renderings of ordinary street scenes, suburban homes, and the slow-motion death of one desert gunslinger, captured in elongated, Thomas Hart Benton style. But even Houston’s perspective is cracked. His stunning, nighttime portrayal of a major train derailment earns the way-understated title Transportation Glitch (pictured). And a painting of a passenger ship sinking headfirst into the murky waters is dubbed Interrupted Cruise. What’s with these people? Strange days indeed. On view from 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, to Saturday, Sept. 7, at MOCA D.C., 1054 31st St. NW. Free. (202) 342-6230. (Louis Jacobson)