Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
TO MAY 17
One of the first comics I ever bought was Batman No. 203. The 25-cent “80-Page Giant” promised to reveal the “Secrets of the Batcave.” I spent hours poring over the two-page spread uncovering the wonders of the Caped Crusader’s subterranean lair. But that simple cross section is crude, indeed, compared to the scale drawings of artist Mark Bennett. Bennett’s comprehensive blueprints of both the Batcave and stately Wayne Manor (pictured) are among the imaginary dwellings recreated in his book TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes. These layouts, however, really should be viewed full-size in Bennett’s new exhibition, “As Seen on TV: Art, Architecture, and a Woman Named Barbara.” Only then can you really appreciate the exacting detail of the artist’s diagrams of Gilligan’s Island and the home of Ward and June Cleaver. It’s all good campy fun, but you start to notice some serious undercurrents as Bennett delves into issues of what could and couldn’t be depicted on television. The bedroom of Ralph and Alice Kramden (where he really sent her to the moon?) remained offscreen. Ricky and Lucy Ricardo shared—or, more accurately, didn’t share—twin beds, as did Rob and Laura Petrie. But just a few years later, Samantha slept with both Darrin Stephens in a double bed. Bennett’s new collage series, The Effects of Fords on Barbara, continues his exploration of the idealized values of suburbia, focusing on women, consumerism, and social differences, all captured in the symbolism of Ford automobiles. On view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, to Wednesday, May 17, at Conner Contemporary Art, 1730 Connecticut Ave. NW, Second Floor. Free. (202) 588-8750. (Mark W. Sullivan)