The Henry may be prone to explaining—in excruciating grad school–speak—how some inscrutable piece of art is actually undermining our "received notions" of something or other, but given its current state of near-hibernation, I found myself almost missing that familiar imperiousness. The museum is weathering the economic storm with reduced hours and scaled-back programming. Intentionally or not, what is on view reflects the mood of diminished expectations. Cao Fei and Yang Fudong glumly reflect on Chinese cultural identity with videos of factory workers and men in Mao jackets. (A video still from Fei's My Future is Not a Dream, 2006, is above). Downstairs, Jasper Johns as a brand is more compelling than his art, which comes on like Claes Oldenburg without any of the fun ("Light Bulb"). Panda, Jeffry Mitchell and Tivon Rice's hour-long video of shaving cream dripping down a transparent surface, exerts the same fascination as water running down a window pane on a long rainy day. But the Henry could be poised to snap out of it. For the big fall show, "Vortexhibition Polyphonica," we're told, "Curators will select distinctive objects [from the Henry's permanent collection] to act as conceptual 'hubs.' These anchoring works will establish topics around which a constellation of other objects will orbit." Now that sounds more like it.
Henry Art Gallery, UW campus, 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 41st Street, 543-2280, henryart.org. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Thurs.–Fri., 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun. $6–$10 (suggested).