Arts Desk

Reviewed: Matthew Mann and Milana Braslavsky at Hamiltonian Gallery

For an exhibit titled “The Salon of Little Deaths,” this dual-artist show at Hamiltonian Gallery doesn’t include much in the way of orgasm art, though at least in the works of Milana Braslavsky, there’s a not-too-subtle sexuality at play.

Braslavsky’s still-life photographs, which have a painterly cast, feature pears, peaches, tangerines, yellow plums, and nectarines in all their bulbous, sensual glory, set on fabrics that range from fancy tablecloths to blue coverings that suggest aseptic hospital linens.

The exhibit only includes a couple of her weirder arrangements—including a rather creepy tableau of pears and gloves set on a plate—but other works not on display toy with unusual uses for purses and various articles of clothing. Adding to the unnerving vibe, Braslavsky deftly uses a knife to carve her fruits in absorbing ways—a cantaloupe divided by a stiletto-like crevice (top), or lemons carefully sliced so many times that they seem to have expanded to twice their natural length (middle).

Still, measured by their oddness quotient, Braslavsky’s works pale compared to Matthew Mann’s. Look past Mann’s thing for dead birds, including one stabbed by a paintbrush (bottom); it’s his landscapes that go beyond surreal to deeply off-kilter. The artist suggests that such works draw from “unmoored spatiality frequently encountered on desktops and smartphones,” though other influences run the gamut from Renaissance still lifes, trompe l’oeil paintings, and traditional Asian art.

“Intervention on Kobayashi Cliff,” for instance, offers a disjointed patchwork of prim garden paths, a rambling cliff, receding fields and a ripped-in-the-time-space-continuum sky reminiscent of Donnie Darko. Indeed, Mann’s skies are the most consistently pleasing of his elements, ranging in color from tequila sunrise to peach-and-coral to deep indigo.

Through June 15 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U Street NW, Suite 101, Washington, DC. (202) 332-1116. Tue-Sat 12-6.


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