When Marcelo Suaznabar dreams, he sails to his own version of “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” the H.G. Wells novel about a rogue experimenter and his hybrid animals.
The most elaborate painting in the artist’s “Lucid Dreams,” at the IDB Staff Association Art Gallery, includes a fish-headed woman with a body that’s either furry or feathery. She shares a wheeled tub with an egg-like, long-tongued head, while a curled-up cat lounges nearby. In addition to Wells, Suaznabar’s vignettes recall Henri Rousseau, Salvador Dali and Dr. Seuss.
Born in Bolivia and living in Toronto, the artist combines a comic-book sensibility with classical oil-painting skills. His eccentric beasts have bulbous bodies, generally covered with polka dots or other regular pattern; the ungainly beings are supported by vestigial limbs or tentacles, and often teeter on some antique conveyance. Yet the creatures are rendered so deftly that they seem almost plausible.
When experiencing a lucid dream, a person both submits to and directs the reverie. Suaznabar’s control is demonstrated by his technique. His brushstrokes are delicate, nearly invisible and — on most of the smaller pictures — finished with a fine layer of gleaming resin. This hybrid-maker is less mad scientist than master surgeon.
Marcelo Suaznabar: Lucid Dreams Through Oct. 3 at IDB Staff Association Art Gallery, 1300 New York Ave. NW (entrance on 13th Street).
By Mark Jenkins
The Washington Post