The 1980s Color Fields of John Opper
With his first solo show “Harmonies” with Berry Campbell Gallery, John Opper’s (1908-1994) late-career work is presented in new light as one of the leading colorists of the New York School. Featuring 19 paintings predominately from the 1980s, the exhibition aims to elevate Opper to a new level of both scholarly and commercial acclaim.
Born in Chicago, Opper became interested in Modernism after a visit to the Pittsburgh International Exposition in 1928, where he first discovered the works of work of Picasso, Matisse, Braque, and other abstract painters. He studied at the Cleveland School of Art, and later took classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. He quickly befriended Hans Hofmann after moving to Gloucester, Massachusetts, and joined the WPA Easel Division in the 1930s. Opper stated that he credited the WPA experience with introducing him to a modern way of creating.
After his time with the WPA Opper fully left behind nature and the physical world, and pivoted to pure abstraction. Like many artists of his generation, leaving behind any sense of figure or narrative was initially derided by critics and collectors, but nevertheless, they moved forward with their work. As much as we understand the abstract in the 21st century, it was a very radical departure for many at the time, and wasn’t fully appreciated until the 1950s. Later in New York, he painted at Milton Avery’s studio in New York, and became acquainted with Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko. After leaving the city, he would frequently come back to spend time at the Cedar Bar associating with Franz Kline, Philip Guston, and Willem de Kooning.… Click here to read more