reviews > Philadelphia, PN

The still life is one of the great categories of painting, and usually it is quite well behaved: food is artfully arranged, objects of symbolic significance carefully displayed, choice flowers propped up in vessels. By definition, nothing moves. Still life, get it? Not so four recent examples of the form painted by Erin Elman, and which owe something to the radical French painters of interior scenes: Vuillard, Bonnard, Cézanne. Though modestly sized and composed like any other out of acrylic medium, Elman’s pictures do not comport themselves with any propriety, refusing to illustrate their subjects as solid things that stay in place. The flora are particularly rambunctious, spilling out of their containers and filling their compositions with cascades of sunflower yellow and sky blue, roundels of magenta, tendrils of pink. The vessels meant to contain them never stood a chance, drawn as translucent items with forest green outlines and pale pink marks—of course their contents would overflow and proliferate. And thank goodness for that.

—Lori Waxman 10/13/2023 2:33 PM