Category: Exhibition Reviews

John Opper “Harmonies”

The 1980s Color Fields of John Opper

Installation view of John Opper “Harmonies”. Courtesy of Berry Campbell Gallery.

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. 

Untitled (AMA-12)“, acrylic on canvas, 56 x 50 in | 143 x
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Hadi Tabatabai “Black White Sometimes Blue”

Hadi Tabatabai’s Transitional Objects

Installation view of Hadi Tabatabai “Black White Sometimes Blue”. Courtesy of Peter Blake Gallery.

Hadi Tabatabai is an abstract artist who emigrated from Iran in 1977 at only 13 years old. He finished his BS in Industrial Technology in 1985, and his BFA in painting at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1995.

When one first enters Peter Blake Gallery in Laguna Beach and happens upon Tabatabai’s current solo show “Black White Sometimes Blue,”, a few things happen. The first is that they notice that the works are beautifully minimal and seductive in nature, comprised of just black, white, and sporadically blue.  Numerous comparisons can be made with a keen sense of the balance between light and space. The artist has clearly studied the groundwork laid out by James Turrell and Sol Lewitt, and the compositions of Lee Lozano, Ellsworth Kelly, and Donad Judd.  The key addition he is making is by adding sensibility of the monochrome in line with Charles Hinman and Norio Imai.

The second understanding is that though immediately intriguing, it is going to take some time to sit and contemplate these meditative works.  The viewer becomes acutely aware of how the artist’s sensibility deeply interacts with the gallery’s architecture and physical space.  In these times, most dealers will back the walls and try to sell as much product as possible, but Blake and his team understand that art is more than just something to sell, it’s a statement from an artist with a very specific intent, and the level of detail in the installation and lighting goes miles further than other galleries.    

Installation view of Hadi Tabatabai “Black White Sometimes Blue”. Courtesy of Peter Blake Gallery.

Elegant and nuanced surfaces are created with a balance of acrylic paint combined with thread.  The thread acts … Click here to read more

Machiko Edmondson “Double Bluff”

Machiko Edmondson’s Unattainable Desire

Image courtesy of Robert Berry Gallery

In her first virtual solo exhibition taking place at Robert Berry Gallery from June 26th through July 26th, 2020, London-based artist Machiko Edmondson has once again created an expansive look into the beauty and consumer cultures we currently live in.  Just imagine, you can have a larger than life, never-aging fashion model being ever present on your living room wall for decades to come.

For her new body of work, Edmondson has painted new hyperrealistic faces through a rigorous studio practice and a renewed interest in offering the viewer some narrative into the lives of these stylized portraits.  The artist has combined a subtle mixture of images to create these new portraits, while also using some actual figures for the first time in years.

Image courtesy of Robert Berry Gallery

For the untrained eye, Edmondson’s works appear to be larger than life photographs of women with the type of ideal beauty that one would see in all the beauty magazines targeted to young woman to promote style and luxury through the acquisition of consumer goods: clothing, makeup, hair products and jewelry.  When in fact, the artist is actually promoting a disdain for the entire industry.  The viewer who takes the time to get up close to the paintings will discover the immense amount of brushwork, blending, and laborious effort that went into making these paintings become something much more.   

The artist states, “the works become paintings of unattainable desire,” and it is this bluff that is at the heart of the exhibition.  In the era of identity becoming dominant, Edmondson strips these figures of what makes each women an individual, and ironically furthers the notion of unobtainable beauty.  These idealized women have a level of beauty that is simply not possible in a … Click here to read more