IF YOU think your friends' travel photos are boring, try the group show at Foundry Gallery.

It's probably worse.

There is, for instance, a strip of color photos strung across two walls recording Ginger Prichard's visit to the loft of avant-gardist John Cage.

"It was a nice visit," she reports in her statement for the show. And she's made nice snapshots to remember it by. But for the viewer there is nothing here but the unsurprising news that Cage wears blue denim shirts and eats peanut butter sandwiches.

Propelled by a smiliar belief that proximity to greatness spawns greatness in itself, Eugenia Schnee has recorded a day's romp in the woods with conceptual photographer Duane Michals. She then sent a series of seven photos to Michals, who wrote a single word under each -- in typical Michals style -- the sum of which reads: "How nice it is to be alive."

No argument there.

But adding pretentiousness to concept, she then went on to ape Michals by writing her own words under a similar series of images. It reads like a thinly veiled fantasy of student yearning, and begins: "When we first met you said that everything starts from nothing." If that's true, this is a real beginning.

For sheer vacuity, however, it is the collages made from photos of newborns -- the sort they take in hospital nurseries (and in this case literally threw away) -- that get the prize.

As critics are privileged to do, I asked photographer Jim Sherwood, the Foundry member who organized his show, what on earth he had in mind. He said it was meant to be a survey of various ways in which photographers use the human subject.

That at least explained all the skin -- some rather grossly explicit -- that decorates this gimmich-ridden show.

The most curious bit of gimmickry is provided by the team of Jan Darsie and Tom Di Maria from Baltimore. They are showing backlit, enlarged color transparencies of posed tableaux obviously inspired by the show of Neapolitan paintings at the National Gallery last winter. In one, a male model is tied to a tree and pierced by arrows -- St. Sebastian, no doubt. Caravaggio would turn in his grave.

There are some good photographers in the group, and the tasteless company highlights that fact. Chris Welch is showing charged images from a series titled "Men at the Beach," based on her recollection of how the atmosphere changed on summer weekends when husbands and fathers arrived. The sense of male takeover and female retreat is ominous -- hairy legs, fat bellies and all.

Molly Roberts is also expressive in her images of human vulnerability, especially the stoic man who has been hit in a mud fight. He looked far more like a martyr than the aforementioned St. Sebastian. And one needn't know that young Kate Jones was recording her own mastectomy to feel the power of her images. Jack Ratcliffe, Ramiro Jarrin and a few others also help save the day.

Most galleries close in August. Foundry might consider doing likewise if it can't do better than this next year. The show continues through Aug. 27 at 641 Indiana Ave. NW, and is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5. Thick Thieves

Art thieves aren't as smart as they use to be.

On the morning of June 9, thieves broke into the Market 5 Gallery (part of Eastern Market) on Capitol Hill and removed 23 prints, photographs, pastel drawings and bas-relief figure sculptures from a show of work by artist-members of Percy Martin's W.D. Printmaking Workshop -- nearly the whole show:

"They ripped the door open, walked right by the stereo equipment, the typewriter, the television and cash and just proceeded to take the art," says a sad and baffled Martin. "But if they were real art thieves, they wouldn't have taken some of the things they took. They passed up some of the best."

According to Martin, the thieves left all the paintings behind, including those of Michael Platt, who had just had a solo show at Franz Bader gallery and was the best-known artist in the group.

"The artists were all professionals, and there were some nice things, but none were famous enough to be stolen for resale."

Police have investigated, but have recovered nothing so far. "It's kind of heartbreaking for the group, because for many it was their first show," says Martin.

"Besides, I think artists kind of like to know who has their work."