Though John Lennon of the Beatles drew (and nicely, too), though Bob Dylan once upon a time painted his self-portrait, it was rare in those pre-New Wave days to come upon an art show you could hear as well as see. Comes now a local art rock band whose three singing artists, witty fellows all, call themselves the Worms.
Their show at the Red Gallery, 1726 Wisconsin Ave. NW, is nicely titled "Stations" -- stations as in radio stations, as in nurses' stations, and if you push it, as in Stations of the Cross. Their exhibition's look is repetitive and cold. The gallery resembles, visually at least, the conceptual art shows that one saw so often in the pages of Art Forum, circa 1968.
There are 10 stations in all. One looks like another. The visitor is expected to spend a while at each one before moving to the next. What he sees is this: 10 black wall-hung lecterns (each as sleekly spooky as the thing found on the moon by the baffled spacemen in "2001"), each lectern supplied with a pair of low-fi headsets, a clipboard with typed lyrics, and a whitish lab coat hanging on a hook. Press a button on the lectern and songs blast through the earphones. The noise is harsh and funny. It is also very loud.
The coats are there as props; you may don them if you wish. Few viewers can resist. As they take the hint, and listen to the Worms, and read the posted lyrics, they begin to look like stationary statues clad in robes of white that the Worms have managed to plug into the wall.
The Worm songs that one hears sound something like a blend of David Bowie, reggae and Noel Coward, too.
The Worms sing songs of leisure ("Manicured lawn/The right shoes on/ Do the Condo-Disco"), songs of love and science, and one, of bragging greed, called "Ionahunka" -- as in "I own a hunk of." ("Ionahunka middies on the flight deck. Ionahunka the jets. Ionahunka the designers initials branded into the flanks of our pets.")
There are not all that many ways -- beyond the radio or a record or a live performance -- to present rock music. The Worms -- Dann Dewitt, John Brittain and John Burke -- have now found another. Much New Wave art looks scuzzy, intentionally ugly; theirs is more up-market. Its look is partly art world chic and partly sci-fi sterile. High-tone folks, the Worms. pThey sometimes sing in French. Their show closes Sept. 8.
Though scientists trust cameras more than do most mystics, "Mystery in Photographs," the group show at the Intuitiveye Gallery, 641 Indiana Ave. NW, reminds us that those small machines, with all their cogs and lenses, are quite capable of summoning the blossomings of light, the effigies in shadows, the uncanniness of things.
An unexplained giraffe peers through a bedroom window, a flashbulb conjures stars in a pane of pebbled glass, a glowing net above a lawn assumes a perfect Zen-like curve.The artists here are not well known, but their works are strange indeed.
Some of them use "tricks" of one sort or another. The pin-hole camera of Ohio's Lauren Smith (a punctured Comet cleanser can) takes the straight lines of a table's edges and manages to bend them. Two negatives were used to bring that giraffe to Toyo Biddle's window. That most eerie of techniques, Kirlian photography, made visible the flashes of blue lighting that fly like solar flares from the fingers of Leon C. Collins' hand. But there are many pictures here equally mysterious that use no tricks at all.
What seems to be a jaguar's ghost appears to prowl through walls, for we do not see the beast itself, but merely its reflection in the glass walls of its cage. Margaret Paris-Stevenson sees shadowed caves in kneecaps. Gus Gonzalez finds mysteries in branches. Mike Kolenick does the same in roof lines at Glen Echo, and one suspects that George A. Peterson was as surprised as we are to find a weeping head of Christ, a plaster statue from a church, on the front seat of a car. Of all the pictures here none is more mysterious than the one by Kathryn F. Miles that shows a cluttered shelf bearing a bunch of rags, a baby and a cat. One sign of this show's success is that the downtown street outside, which looked bland when one entered, looks sranger when one leaves. The show runs through September.