TO JUNE 16

For the dedicated sci-fi-and-fantasy bookworm, the phrase “fantasy art” evokes a variety of responses—not all of them positive. The comic paperback artwork for pun-driven series like Piers Anthony’s Xanth or Robert Asprin’s Myth books is often as good for a laugh as the words between the covers. And the art that encloses an Isaac Asimov or Frederick Pohl book makes you feel the gravity of their subject matter. But the wrong picture up front can completely ruin your reading, as in the case of Ballantine Books’ appalling 1992 reissue of the Hobbit: That dumpy guy with the Afro is supposed to be Bilbo?! Anyway, few recognize that fantasy art is a genre of its own—even without the books. And there’s more to it than the buxom, bat-winged babes of Boris Vallejo, too. “Fantasy” showcases several artists who create works that aren’t destined to decorate the jackets of books by touchy authors. The exhibit has its share of dark mysticism—Eric Sandberg’s Purification and local artist Margarida Kendall’s spooky-as-hell The Doll’s House—but the best of its works are as thought-provoking and unexpected as even the most original 200-page fantasy tome. David Febland’s Our Civic Duty looks at first like some sort of political cartoon, but its repetitive composition is far more confusing than amusing. And James Skvarch’s detailed sketch of the eeriest institution imaginable requires only a three-word title to complete its story: The 24-Hour Museum (pictured). On view from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday to Wednesday, June 16, at Fraser Gallery, 1054 31st St. NW. Free. (202) 298-6450. (Neil Drumming)

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