TO NOV. 27

I don’t look at paintings for fun. I’ve spent far too much of my life reading stuff like The Optical Unconscious and getting browbeaten by Teutonic art history professors. (No kidding: my graduate school employed a Christiane and a Brunhilde.) I want my art snobby and cerebral. Which is why I’m surprised I don’t hate Bethesda artist Joe Shannon’s recent work. Like Eric Fischl, Shannon makes realistically rendered paintings of families in prosaic settings (DANCELIFE: The Weiss Family in Action is pictured). But Shannon’s grinning moms, dads, and kids are unrelated to Fischl’s Freudian casualties; they cavort, mug for the viewer, and seem pretty happy to be together. And like Mark Tansey, Shannon—a former Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden exhibit designer and ARTnews critic—fills his paintings with art-historical referents, sneaking his own portrait into the works of art that surround his sitters. But Shannon’s cheeky game of Where’s Joe? has little to do with Tansey’s explorations of art-world power struggles and poststructuralist theory. It’s more of a pleasant little diversion for the viewer. Discovering Shannon’s bald, bearded, and bespectacled head (recognizable from his distinctively loopy self portraits) here, there, and everywhere made me laugh out loud. In fact, I was even—dare I say it?—having fun. On view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, to Saturday, Nov. 27, at Gallery K, 2010 R St. NW. Free. (202) 234-0339. (Leonard Roberge)