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“The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch”

It’s official: Edvard Munch’s Scream is the No. 2 high-art kitsch icon in the nation (Frida Kahlo’s eyebrow is No. 3, and God help us all if anything ever unseats pole-position perennial La Gioconda). The great thing about pop-culture appropriation of masterworks is that at their core they resist all attempts at assimilation. And the hubbub can prepare for the making of a genuine aesthete (Robert Aubry Davis wasn’t born that way, you know—a refrigerator magnet somewhere probably gave him a leg up). Having feasted a few years ago on the National Gallery’s Munch print show, Washingtonians should be doubly prepared for The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch: The Vivian and David Campbell Collection, the catalog to a show at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). There’s a delightful Peter Schjeldahl essay, first loopy then poignant, on Munch as rock star, and AGO curator Michael Parke-Taylor discusses the artist’s original U.S. public, but Georgetown prof and catalog contributor Elizabeth Prelinger is a nut for technique. She makes a fascinating case, on which she will elaborate in tonight’s Smithsonian Associates lecture, that the experimentalism of graphic work permitted the creation of a “symbolic language” best suited to Symbolism’s highly subjective themes. She is assisted by an exceptional illustration scheme, which includes shots of the often sawed and repieced printing blocks. The book’s no stroll through the Munch-museet (Oslo’s lovely in the spring, and you can take the train to Bergen to visit the Leprosy Museum), but for an armchair—or sickbed—trip through the works on paper it’s right fine. At 6 p.m. at Ripley Center Lecture Hall, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. $13. For reservations call (202) 357-3030. (Glenn Dixon)