BOYD WEBB does great stuff, whatever it is. The first Washington exhibition of the London artist's antic photofakery makes a pleasant puzzle at the Hirshhorn.
Patrons who can't think what to make of Webb's giant Cibachrome photographs of cunningly constructed yet transparently fake scenes may take comfort in knowing that curator Sidney Lawrence is of two or more minds about them too.
"What is happening, for instance, in 'Nourish' (1984)?" Lawrence asks in the handsome exhibition brochure. "Why is this young man sucking the human-like breast of an enormous creature? Is this bizarre scenario a soft-core put-on or earnest metaphor?"
Who cares? The thing is interesting, engaging and witty, from the tattered rubber whaleskin to the rotten-berry barnacles and the painted-squash teat. So are the other 12 prints, which show such scenes as Romulus and Remus recast as incubi nourished by Saran Wrap jellyfish, and a boned-out Peking duck that looks like it's been run over by a truck.
Webb's straightforward illusions create powerful allusions. From an umbrella, several deflated plastic flamingos and some sheets of polyethylene film he conjures a convincing scene of wildlife lying dead in the shallows of a lifeless sea of a postapocalyptic planet. Somehow his up-frontness staves off triteness. Or whatever.
BOYD WEBB: DIRECTIONS -- Through Jan. 27 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Eighth and Independence SW. Open 10 to 5:30 daily. Metro: L'Enfant Plaza.