In the exhibit “Cinecitta Chapel,” Matthew Mann, a D.C.-based artist, offers six large-scale oil paintings that tweak the iconography of Giotto’s Arena Chapel fresco cycle in Padua, Italy, by substituting Biblical figures for cowboys, Stetsons, leather boots, and double-barreled shotguns. He’s trying to create a sort of warped Spaghetti Western (while eschewing a more obvious linkage between Italy and the U.S.–Mafia culture). But what the paintings more distinctly suggest is an homage to a slightly different flavor of American imagery—that of mid-20th-century Middle America as chronicled by Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood (with just a hint of surrealist whimsy and Michelangelo-like deus ex machina symbolism). Mann’s painting is crisp, vivid, and bold, and his figures undulate, elongate, and twist at will. But the giveaway hint comes in “Apprehension at Ondaatje Gulch,” which features a building with a resemblance to the farmhouse in Wood’s “American Gothic”: a tantalizing example, one could say, of art imitating art imitating life imitating life.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW 12 P.M. TO 6 P.M. TUESDAY TO SATURDAY TO SEPT. 4 AT FLASHPOINT, 916 G ST. NW. FREE. (202) 315-1310. —Louis Jacobson