"THE WASHINGTON SHOW" at the Corcoran is a jumble of images. The now- traditional work of the Washington Color school acts as reserved underpinning to a crazy quilt of sculpture, collage, construction, textiles, paintings and photographs. If this is Washington, identity crisis is rampant.
No Washington show would be complete without the appearance of the old guard -- Sam Gilliam, Jacob Kainen, Leon Berkowitz, Thomas Downing, the late Gene Davis. In all, about a fourth of the artists were invited to show by dint of veteran status; other artists submitted their work to a jury of their peers; some fell into both categories. The selection process stimulated controversy, but came up with what appears to be a democratic melange from 79 artists.
Look up. Walter Kravitz' trail of mobile sprites is suspended along the ceiling in one gallery, while Hilda Thorpe's grandly draped hammocks of cotton net seem to catch paint chips from the skylight in the atrium.
Look closer. Two large constructions preoccupy with their details.
John Dickson's "Christmas" could as easily be called "A Day in Her Life," for it contains all manner of allusions to womanhood: from a paint-streaked mannequin with two doll's heads to a high-heeled vanity, hair dryer- vacuum cleaner and mirrors, mirrors on the floor.
Upstairs (the show is unfortunately split, on two floors), there's nothing ambiguous about the message in Laure Drogoul's "Metal Monkeys," only whether we're part of it. In a room-size chickenwire cage, a mad monkey- scientist sits before a TV monitor showing visceral video. Suspended above him are vivisected monkeys.
Although the primates' doorway is marked "Enter," few visitors dare. But many pause to puzzle over Fred Folsom's realistic painting of some bad dudes. Or become absorbed by the photo show-within-a-show, ranging from Stephen Szabo's beach scenes to Allen Appel's strange visions to Rhoda Baer's amusing local color (goldfish burial at a pet cemetery).
Or visitors briefly tune in to the slide shows of performance art -- which, rewarmed like leftovers, become little more than meaningful looks embedded in nonsense. Guess you had to be there.
THE WASHINGTON SHOW -- At the Corcoran Gallery of Art through July 14.