Fingers + Codes: Me, myself and I 

Eyedrum exhibition takes portraiture and runs with it

Portraits are complicated for withholding as much as they propose to reveal. And for artists, representing oneself must be especially tricky; how can people used to seeing life's layers imagine one portrait capturing their inner and outer identities?

The artists in the Eyedrum exhibition Fingers + Codes: The Contemporary Portrait take the idea of portraiture, and, not surprisingly, run with it. The most successful find their greatest insights in the minute and particular rather than the comprehensive, satisfying themselves with offering a thumbprint of self rather than a full-body strip search.

Identity is represented in numerous ways: by artist David Deis' ass-print in plaster, by X-rays, store receipts and Ashley Hinson's evocation of self as water mass in four jugs from which visitors are invited to drink. There are probably too many competing riffs on the idea of the portrait for any real epiphanies to unfold over the breadth of the show – except, perhaps, an idea of anonymity as a perhaps Web-inspired sense of self most piquantly explored in Madrid-based artist Kristoffer Ardeña's street-art-style stencil silhouettes.

As is typical of larger group shows such as this, incorporating both exceptional and mediocre work, almost every artist is represented by just one piece. In some cases that can leave dangling questions and make the artist's voice feel cut off midsentence, interrupted by the curatorial mission to sample from a multiplicity of perspectives. Photographers Chan-Hyo Bae, a South Korean artist contending with Western culture by dressing himself as a constricted British "queen" and Mark Petko's portrait of a tattooed baker – the show's signature image – are accomplished, but you long to see more (more work, more context) from these and other artists. Some of the work stands alone for its pithy exploration of the limitations and pleasures of portraiture, as in Joshua Samberg's funny computer stream-of-consciousness, Jena Sibille's portrait of marital discord and reconciliation, and Elisabeth Smolarz's quicksilver video piece (the video work is especially strong here) of a woman's back facing the camera only intermittently interrupted by the coo or emergence of a tiny hand of the baby she is nursing.

Though an entirely different exhibition, Danny Paulete's ode to his favored pastime of rock climbing, worked out in fascinatingly abstracted forms in Eyedrum's back gallery, is worth checking out.

Fingers + Codes: The Contemporary Portrait. Through June 9. Fri., 3-8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 1-6 p.m. Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery, Suite 8, 290 MLK Jr. Drive. 404-522-0655.


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