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The exhibit at Adamson Gallery may be called “Wild Things,” but beyond William Wegman’s polished Weimaraner portraits—-which are charming as always (below)—-the exhibit might as well be called “Dead Things.” If you don’t like being freaked out, beware the owls. The one in Jim Dine’s 1996 photogravure has an eerily lifelike eye that stares straight through you. The one in Roni Horn’s photograph may look plausibly alive, minus an oddly absent beak, but the title—-“Dead Owl”—-explains otherwise. And Martin d’Orgeval’s owl is an eerie shade of reddish gold, perched on a dirty pedestal.
While the show includes bigger names, such as Annie Leibovitz and Robert Longo, d’Orgeval is the clear standout. His images come from a project to document the aftermath of a devastating 2008 fire in a 170-year-old taxidermy shop in Paris. The artist photographed everything from singed butterflies to a bear so seriously charred that it is now missing its face (left). The book d’Orgeval published from the project lists thousands of butterfly species beginning with the letter “a” in small type — a monument to the diversity of life. The melancholy images paired with the names offer a fascinating meditation on mortality: These animals lived and died, then were given a form of eternal life, only to see it ripped away by the fire.
At Adamson Gallery, 1515 14th St. NW, Suite 202. (202) 232-0707.