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TO OCT. 23
I don’t know why Malik Butler was shot to death in downtown D.C. on July 2, 1993. And neither do the police, for that matter: The case remains unsolved. But Malik’s mother, District artist Sylvia Snowden, isn’t trying to find out. Instead, she’s honoring her dead son in a site-specific installation, Malik, Farewell ’til We Meet Again, that’s a chilling ode to lost childhood. Snowden presents a suite of rooms studded with banal childhood effects—crib, Big Wheel, high chair—that she’s slathered with thick impasto. The simple gesture of coating these toys with her mucus-like paint concoction carries incredible emotional weight—they become monuments to the isolation and terror behind the sweetness of youth. A crib doused in orange paint and a mattress painted blue and fuschia give the effect of a creepy, three-dimensional cartoon. On the walls, Snowden’s large abstract canvases, with moods varying from reflective to exuberant, are paired with black-and-white photoimages of Malik at various ages. (Age 6 is pictured.) For much of the show, the specificity of the photoimages detracts from the universality of Snowden’s mausoleum. That is, until we encounter the installation’s final room. There, a photograph of Malik standing, Christ-like, embracing a fish, hovers over a mock crime scene. Nearby, an assemblage of semi-automatics and handguns doused in blood-colored paint disgusts and frightens. The photograph of Malik, seemingly in a state of grace, is a chilling cap on a show that so effectively shows terror co-existing with innocence. On view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to Monday and Wednesday, and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, to Monday, Oct. 23, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW. $3 (suggested donation). (202) 639-1700. (Jessica Dawson)