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“Dark Matters,” the title for a show at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, can be read any number of ways. It might refer to subject matter—say, subjects of heightened political tension since Sept. 11. The phrase summons images of CIA black sites, unmanned Predator drones, or, in this show, Wayne Gonzales’ Pentagon, a pointillist painting of a digitally blurred aerial photograph of the Pentagon. “Dark matters” could also mean dark materials or substances, the kinds of things that absorb or negate light and visibility. Hence Roni Horn’s Some Thames—Group M (detail pictured) four images of light playing off the dark surface of the Thames River. With its rotating permanent-collection exhibitions, the Hirshhorn usually strives for crystal clarity, seen in its survey of colorful Minimalist works and a show DJed by John Baldessari. “Dark Matters” is more sinister, but also more playful. It’s a look into the permanent collection’s darker corners, literally and figuratively, to argue that what happens in the dark matters most in art. On view beginning today. Free. (Kriston Capps)
The 2012 D.C. Shorts film festival doesn’t start until September, but this weekend, it’s hosting two nights of stand-up comedy and short funnies from festivals past. All told, about 40 films will be shown, broken up into themed showcases; each showcase will feature six to eight films and three comics. Check out the sked at Riot Act’s website. $15.
Every Friday in February, Artisphere will show a film from a woman director; the series kicks off tonight with Jane Campion’s The Piano. 8 p.m. $6 in the Dome Theatre.
The Glock is not an elegant gun, but it’s functional—so functional, in fact, that a standard semiautomatic can fire as many as 17 bullets without reloading. Dunk a Glock in water, or drop it from the roof of a tall building, and it will still fire. The hardened plastic shell contains only 36 parts, all of which are interchangeable with other models. But, as Paul M. Barrett explains in Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, those weren’t the only reasons police departments and Hollywood directors grew so enamored of this particular handheld killing machine. Barrett, an assistant managing editor and senior features writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, spent 15 years researching Glock; he argues that when the Austrian-made handgun was introduced to American markets in 1984, our rabid gun culture helped it thrive. Law-enforcement officials, film honchos, rappers, and suburban kids associate Glocks with violence, power, idiotic shooting accidents, and cold-blooded murder. Barrett’s book is a clear, concise read that neatly hits its target: In the United States, “gun” is now almost synonymous with “Glock.” Barrett discusses and signs his book at 7 p.m. at Politics & Prose. Free. (Alex Baca)
Ian Whitmore returns—-for the third time—-to G Fine Art for another solo show, this one called “The Devil, a Shadow, the Note of a Small Falling Leaf” (see image, left). The opening reception takes place Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Free.
Kicking off its annual Black History Month celebration, the Smithsonian will host a family day at the Kogod Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum. On the docket: a performance from the Taratibu step team, a puppet show, arts and crafts, and more. The event is inspired by “The Black List,” currently showing at the Portrait Gallery. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Free.
Artists need not sound unique to make great music. But the ones who manage to tap into a singular take on melody, harmony, and rhythm are those whose music floats above the sea of sameness. That’s why Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is one of the most distinctive acts in hip-hop history: The instant you hear this Cleveland collective’s combination of sing-songy speed rhyming, gospel-infused harmony, and sucrose-steeped pop hooks, you know it’s Thug music. The two-decade-old group has struggled with internal conflicts, and last year Krayzie Bone and Wish Bone left the quintet. Yet that duo is now touring as Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, which leaves their future with Layzie, Bizzy, and Flesh at the crossroads until all the drama can be resolved. But Bone Thugs has always been able to move from dissonance to consonance—at least in their music. 10 p.m. at 9:30 Club. $25. (Christopher Porter)