Matthew Brannon: CASEY KAPLAN

Article excerpt

The flat, graphic style of Matthew Brannon's work derives from the visual innovations of Madison Avenue during its midcentury golden age. In this exhibition, that coolly nostalgic look surfaced in silkscreen and letterpress prints, as well as in paintings, sculptures, and cloth uniforms (the last made in collaboration with menswear designer Carlo Brandelli). These works were installed across three galleries, each of which suggested a discrete room--or, more precisely, a theatrical set. For each gallery corresponded to an "act" in a play, written by the artist, the plot of which is elliptically described yet never disclosed in broadsides hanging on the walls.

The texts on these placards are clipped and listlike. In the "Act I" gallery, the first of them read, in part, "A bar of long wall mounted glass shelves lined with endless bottles. A curved banquette with a seahorse motif running in metal relief along the bottom. Pink neon recessed behind it all. High stools with monogrammed back rests. Walls of mirrors. Signs pointing to restrooms, exits and phones..." That scene was further suggested by the installation of objects, which included Early Retirement, 2011, a rack of black, gold, and pink liquor bottles carved from foam, and As it turns out ..., 2011, a Charley Harper-esque silk screen of a pay phone, its receiver off the hook. Across the gallery, a rectangular mint-green sign juts from the wall, its height, proportions, and lettering style suggesting that it might once have hung above the entrance to a 1 940s restroom--although rather than a demure LADIES or GENTLEMEN, one side of it read SUBLIMINAL and the other MASSAGE. In the following two rooms, there were more props (a cartoony chandelier, an office desk) and more silk screens (black squares with keyholes resembling safes) as well as letterpress prints suggesting forelorn characters confronting tragedy and despair (a forty-year-old professor contemplating an affair with a student, a heroin-addicted commercial airline pilot who commits suicide by crashing his plane). …