Frank DiPerna: Kathleen Ewing Gallery

Article excerpt

Frank DiPerna's recent exhibition, "In the Studio: Frank DiPerna," included fourteen photographs notable for their deceptively simple composition and saturated colors. The shots--mostly still lifes and tableaux--border on the surreal, a significant departure from the empiricist landscape photography for which the artist is best known. Moreover, they demonstrate in subtle ways his ability to intertwine irony and wit with an acute sense of texture and a resourceful use of found objects. DiPerna, a professor at the Corcoran College of Art & Design, created this new body of work in order to acknowledge the peculiar influence of the studio atmosphere on his artistic vision, a process that entailed inventing new stories rather than interpreting narratives found in nature.

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With this show, DiPerna joined the lineage of artists who embrace artifice as a new reality, one that might be traced back to seventeenth-century Dutch still life painters who depicted, with great precision, groups of flowers that don't naturally bloom together. The comparison certainly applies to Pear, 2002, which has a painterly verisimilitude worthy of Fede Galizia. But DiPerna goes further, amassing demonstrably fake elements in scenes that feel entirely credible. For example, a vase of plastic flowers against an electric red background in Tulips, 2004, could have been photographed at a wedding chapel in Las Vegas.

The artist also creates amusing and discordant arrangements of objects while adhering to a commitment to portray, as he told me at the show's opening, "things in a beautiful way." Like an elegant sportsman's trophy, Red Snapper, 2003, features the glistening pink and green carcass of the titular fish on an ovoid bed of crumpled wine red velvet. DiPerna's stated aim is to make "images that I like to think of as beautiful and elegant on the surface and a little strange at their core," and he succeeds. …