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TO JANUARY 19
Jazz may be abstract, but it’s seldom entirely free-form. It has rhythm, improvisation, and call and response, the themes of this Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service show. Although officially divided into three parts, the exhibit can also be seen as two in one: While the paintings and other visual works express the music’s essence, many of the photographs and excerpts from various writings offer a more documentary view (as pictured by Gordon Parks). Actually, both often have a graphic-arts quality: The photographs and writings are a potential book spread across the gallery walls, and such pattern-oriented canvases as Peter Wayne Lewis’ “Black Swan Suite” and Michelle Cartaya’s “The Original Mambo Kings” would make fine album covers. (That’s not a slight; gallery art has been heavily indebted to graphics since the days of early Lichtenstein and Warhol.) The show includes both new art and work by such relatively venerable artists as Stuart Davis and Romare Bearden, yet the “Improvisation” section doesn’t include any abstract expressionism, perhaps the closest visual analog to free jazz. Then again, both painting and jazz have pulled back from their former frontiers in recent years. At the S. Dillon Ripley Center’s International Gallery, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SE. FREE. (202) 357-2700. (Mark Jenkins)