Arts Desk

Reviewed: Michael Francis Reagan at Gallery A

DC map

Michael Francis Reagan's cartography resurrects an age when maps were more than just functional—they were art.

Sometimes, Reagan’s work, which has appeared in National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, the New Yorker, the New York Times and Bon Appetit—calls to mind those old maps in which anthropomorphic clouds blew gales across the ocean.

Reagan is apt to drop an enticing bottle of burgundy into a map of France’s wine region, or topless women into a map of Gaugin’s south Pacific stomping grounds. But the more satisfying details are the subtler ones that echo reality in miniature: blue dabs of watercolor that define the sea around Greece and the Lesser Antilles; shades of beige that represent pitiless deserts; aqua-hued rivulets in Tibet; a dignified, minimalist spine of mountains in Afghanistan; a smattering of tiny oil derricks in Syria; and wildlife reserves in India denoted by a tiger-stripe pattern.

Occasionally Reagan makes a misstep: The blue tone he uses for Kashmir seems out of place, as does the bubble-gum hue of a Sunni Kurd area in Iraq—but these are more than balanced out by such painstakingly drawn elements as a stately latticework border on a map of Greece and Turkey.

On view till tonight at Gallery A, 2106 R St. NW. (202) 667-2599.Afghanistan map

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