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Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page N02


DAN STEINHILBER IS ONE of Washington's most successful and talented young artists. Only 32, he's already shown work at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum, which has now acquired one of his largest pieces. Next year he'll be getting a solo show at a museum in Houston, as well as an artist's residency at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, a pioneering center for installation art. It's hard to resist the whimsy of Steinhilber's work, in which he assembles dozens or even hundreds of banal objects -- pop bottles, wire hangers -- into appealing sculptures and installations. But some of us have been determined to resist it and ask Steinhilber to throw a bit more conceptual heft into his art. In his latest show at Numark Gallery, there are hints he may be moving in that direction. The best piece is nothing more than a restaurant warming lamp that hangs from the ceiling to just above head height. A plain white plinth, of the kind you'd plunk a small bronze on, rises four feet from the floor to meet it. And Steinhilber's work of art seems to hover in the empty space between them, as a disembodied red glow and a waft of heat. A plinth sets the stage for art; a light points at the spot where it's supposed to sit. The art itself becomes whatever fills the place that plinth and light pick out. An artist whose work has always been about attractive heaps of matter now seems headed for the immaterial.

-- Blake Gopnik

At Numark Gallery, 625-27 E St. NW, through May 28. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Free. Call 202-628-3810 or visit www.numarkgallery.com.


SILLY, NOISY AND EXCEPTIONALLY frisky, Louis XIV is a group of San Diego dudes who desperately wish they were British rock stars -- preferably David Bowie. The band's recently released debut, "The Best Little Secrets Are Kept," is a raucous, occasionally arty affair of punk rock, glam rock and rock rock. The album has caused something of a stir for having a naked lady on its cover -- a tame backside shot that is not nearly as naughty as the depraved lyrics within. Led by vocalist-guitarist Jason Hill, the band likes to keep listeners off balance with jarring tempo changes and some odd twists. Ultimately, though, the main point of Louis XIV is to have fun and pretend we're all British rock stars.

-- Sean Daly

At the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. Thursday at 8:30 p.m. $12 ($10 if purchased in advance). Call 202-432-SEAT or visit ticketmaster.com.


BARITONE NATHAN GUNN is among the most distinguished alumni from the Wolf Trap Opera Company -- and that's putting it mildly. In the 10 years since his last residency there, he has gone on to sing leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Glyndebourne Festival and many other venues, and his portrayal of Benjamin Britten's "Billy Budd" was rapturously greeted in San Francisco. On Friday, Gunn will return to Wolf Trap to sing Schubert's youthful song cycle "Die Schone Mullerin," accompanied by pianist Kim Pensinger Witman. The program will be presented without intermission, as it should be; a reception follows.

-- Tim Page

At the Barns at Wolf Trap, 1635 Trap Rd., Vienna. Friday at 8 p.m. $30. Call 703-218-6500 or visit www.wolftrap.org.

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