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TO APRIL 7
James Huckenpahler fashions himself a mad scientist who dabbles in the mysteries of evolution—not in the laboratory but in his studio, with a laptop. He is Dr. Frankenstein with Photoshop—or, at least, he wants to be. In his current exhibition, “Age of Loneliness,” Huckenpahler presents a series of ink-jet printouts that—he asks us to believe—simulate skin. The exhibition’s literature boasts: “[U]sing off-the-shelf software, Huckenpahler generates images that mimic the shallow reliefs, cracks, pores, blemishes and blushes of vital flesh.” But it’s geologists—not dermatologists—who will feel most at home staring at Huckenpahler’s creations, which primarily resemble technicolor clones of topographic maps. (Post-hominidae #46 is pictured.) The artist takes the name of his exhibition from the book Consilience, a pompous stab at philosophy by Pulitzer Prize-winning ant man E.O. Wilson. Like Wilson, Huckenpahler has been smitten by the femme fatale of intellectual seductresses: reductionism. Whereas Wilson speculates that all of history will someday be reduced to a few biological principles, Huckenpahler seems hellbent on reducing all of humanity’s insights onto two-dimensional surfaces that admirers can hang on their walls. Huckenpahler almost succeeds in distilling the theories of Lorenz, Darwin, Watson, and Crick into his synthetic skins. Almost. But by trying to dump too many metaphors—for evolution, for biotechnology, for enlightenment—onto too shallow a space, Huckenpahler comes across not as a polymath but as a charlatan, peddling a bag of tricks as a breakthrough. His illusion is on view from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday; and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, to Sunday, April 7, at Fusebox, 1412 14th St. NW. Free. (202) 299-9220. (Felix Gillette)