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The farewell show for Irvine Contemporary’s 14th Street NW location features works by 10 artists, but most of them pale in comparison to the insanely clever sculptures of Sebastian Martorana. Sure, Kerry Skarbakka intrigues with a self-portrait of himself tumbling through the air while in the thrall of a Bierstadt landscape at the Corcoran Gallery of Art; Akemi Maegawa impresses with a Chia Pet–like sculpture of a brain with tender shoot growing from its top; and Susana Raab reprises her photograph of a Southern-vernacular flag sculpture made from plastic cups stuck into a fence. But really, it’s difficult for any of the artists to compete with the understated yet dazzling works of Martorana, a Baltimore sculptor who confidently pulls off a reverse Claes Oldenburg: making soft objects hard. In “Canvas,” Martorana carves a piece of marble so it bears the subtle textures of a painter’s canvas, right down to gently folded corners. In “Frustration 8 1/2 x 11,” he turns another hunk of marble into a ream of office paper, including a top sheet that’s slightly crinkled. But his tour de force is a humble bath towel carved from marble, tossed over a rod—a work that exudes an incongruous delicacy.
The exhibition is on view 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays to August 27 at Irvine Contemporary, 1412 14th St. NW. Free.