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From Life's Parts, Dissecting the Art

By Jessica Dawson
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page C05

• No longer relegated to your orthopedist's exam room, anatomical drawings continue to inspire contemporary artists. Today's artists don't try to outdo Leonardo; instead they incorporate collage, painting and photography to express body systems in new ways. Frederick Sommer cuts and pastes pictures from "Gray's Anatomy" into eerie, hybrid bodies. Joy Garnett took a found cache of X-rays as the basis for her suite of elegiac paintings. Connie Imboden's distressed gelatin prints portray psychologically loaded bodies and forms. In this context, Doug and Mike Starn's large-scale prints of twisting trees become knots of spidery veins. According to these artists, human flesh encases the decidedly surreal.

"Visionary Anatomies" at the National Academy of Sciences, 2100 C St. NW, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., to May 20. 202-334-2436.

Arboreal anatomy: "Blot Out the Sun" by Mike and Doug Starn. (Copyright Mike And Doug Starn)

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A Tour With Less Force

Same strategy, different city. Photo-based artist Shimon Attie continues to explore memory and forgetting by projecting archival photographs of Jews onto modern-day European streetscapes and photographing this spectral superimposition. For his latest series, "The History of Another," the artist stationed his slide projector in Roman streets to screen pictures of Jews, circa 1900, onto Eternal City sites at dusk. Though reminiscent of Attie's seminal project "Writing on the Wall," in which the artist projected inhabitants of Berlin's Jewish ghettos on now-gentrified storefronts, the current suite lacks a crucial element: Whereas the German pictures imposed former inhabitants directly -- or as directly as the artist's assiduous researches would allow -- onto the sites of their former homes and businesses, the Italian project stations Jews in kitschy stops on the antiquity tour. Without specific ties to their grand locations, Attie's Jews threaten to become a band of ethereal loiterers.

"Shimon Attie: The History of Another" at Numark Gallery, 625-27 E St. NW, Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., to April 9. 202-628-3810.

Molly Springfield, Still Passing Notes in Class

"Anything we have not had to decipher on our own does not belong to us." This, the title of area artist Molly Springfield's small solo show at JET Artworks, leaves little room for the benefits of received wisdom. But no matter. The dour message proves a perfect tagline for this nostalgic show's examination of the trials and, oftentimes, self-induced sufferings of adolescence. Resurrecting scribbled notes she exchanged with friends at her high school, Springfield borrows lines from those missives for her wall drawings, panel paintings, works on paper and digital projections. Though in their day a fine medium for angst and ennui, the notes as reproduced at JET are mostly illegible. To pull us into her world, Springfield invites us to view the show wearing an artist-provided Walkman playing one of her old mix tapes. But such strides toward intimacy can't quite transform one girl's doodles into collective wisdom.

Molly Springfield at JET Artworks, 2108 R St. NW, Tuesday-Saturday noon-5 p.m., to March 26. 202-232-4407.

Power to the People, Cont'd

The African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists, known as Africobra, was bad as in baaaaaaaad: awesome, with an edge. An offshoot of the radical 1960s Black Mural movement that took art to the streets and alleys of America's inner cities, Africobra, too, made art accessible by distributing low-priced prints with electric palettes and Afrocentric messages. Chicago native Frank Smith counted himself a member; his recent set of collages, on view at International Visions, declares allegiance to his roots by juxtaposing magazine clippings and found papers with thickets of embroidery embellished with kente-cloth-bright paint. Though the names have changed -- here's rapper Jay-Z, there's Queen Latifah -- fighting the power remains the aim. Smith shows alongside Atlanta sculptor Kevin Cole, whose clever wall-hung sculptures recall abstract chignons.

Kevin Cole and Frank Smith at International Visions -- The Gallery, 2629 Connecticut Ave. NW, Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., to March 26. 202-234-5112.

A Scavenger's Feel For Big, Graceful Steel

Big, blooming metal megaphones, microscopes and maybe a tuba. Those are the shapes that Andrew Dunnill, a University of Maryland Department of Art grad, evokes from thousands of pounds of scavenged steel. Four massive welded sculptures are the focus of his solo exhibition, "Extractions." Though amplified by drawings and a few small-scale works, the quartet fills the expansive gallery with curious mix of muscle and grace. The artist's weighty materials -- culled from scrap yards that look to be supplying NASA and all manner of heavy industry -- emerge as surprisingly agile forms connoting the industrial and, sometimes, the erotic. Dunnill's Herculean effort never breaks a sweat.

Still, as with the imposing steel sculptures of Richard Serra, getting too close will make you feel insignificant.

"Andrew Dunnill: Extractions" at the Art Gallery, 1202 Art-Sociology Building, University of Maryland, College Park, Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays to 7 p.m., to May 20. 301-405-2763.

The Medium Molds The Message Online

A show so spare it's barely there. Though two works by Indian artist Shilpa Gupta are on view at Provisions Library, the bulk of her lefty activist art resides online. See "My Own Label" (www.m-o-l.net) for her satire of Western label hounds and the destitute laborers who supply them, or the Tate Modern-commissioned "Blessed Bandwidth" (www.blessed-bandwidth.net) for Gupta's take on modern religious mores. At Provisions, you'll see a sculptural installation involving rows of little bottles holding a red substance called "Blame." The label reads, in part: "Blaming you makes me feel so good /So I blame you for . . . your religion, your nationality." Subtle it's not. Though Gupta's black humor has its moments -- see www.yourkidneysupermarket.com (unblock your pop-ups before you do so) -- her critiques verge on polemics.

Shilpa Gupta: Radical Art for the Internet at Provisions Library, 1611 Connecticut Ave. NW, Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon-5 p.m., to April 17. 202-299-0460.

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