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TO MAY 18
Last summer, when Viktor Koen made a fleeting appearance in a Fraser Gallery Bethesda group show, his Fritz Lang–style renderings of flesh and machine—and his Kafkaesque portrayals of part-men-part-insects—were so creepy and bizarre that they were positively refreshing. Now, Koen has a solo show at Fraser’s Georgetown outpost—his first in the United States outside of New York and Los Angeles—and though the artist has kept the surreal vibe strong, he’s dialed down the creep factor just a tiny bit. For “Vanity Studies,” a series of still lifes modeled on 17th-century vanitas paintings, the Greek-born, New York–based Koen used a flatbed scanner rather than a traditional camera to capture images of objects—fruits, dolls, mechanical items, feathers, ivy, and a recurring bird skull. Because the images are digital and easily manipulated, Koen is able to superimpose some objects upon others so that they appear to occupy the same space: disembodied teeth sunk into an ornate picture frame, animal bones seemingly stuck lengthwise into a pear. In this series, Koen creates a claustrophobic universe of shadows, inky blacks, and glossy surfaces rather than the newsprinty, constructivist feel of his works from last year. But the meaning of Koen’s works remains a tough nut to crack. The exception is when he keeps it simple, as in the clever Vanity Study No. 12 (pictured). In it, an erect flower is captured à la Karl Blossfeldt or Tom Baril, but with one curving edge of its petal broken off, as if it were a piece of crumbling alabaster. As the French might pun, it is a perfect nature mort. The show is on view from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays, to Wednesday, May 18, at the Fraser Gallery, 1054 31st St. NW. Free. (202) 298-6450. (Louis Jacobson)