Category: Exhibition Reviews

Ned Martin “Spirits Through Time”

The Duality of Ned Martin

Image courtesy of Robert Berry Gallery

Ned Martin created a dual style presentation that features both sides of his personality in “Spirits Through Time,” his second solo exhibition with Robert Berry Gallery, and challenges the viewer to contemplate the notion of time, the balance of humanity, and to reflect on the state of the world in these 15 new works mostly painted in the past few months during his unexpected quarantine in South America. 

There are two parts to the show: the abstracted landscapes that Martin has been working on over the last few years, and the new portrait paintings combining elements of abstraction and figuration. To anyone who has been following the artist over the last four decades, you’ll know that he was classically trained at the Schuler School of Fine Art, and to this day still mixes his own colors and always builds his own painting surfaces to ensure that he has full control over every element that goes into his work. 

For the last few years, he has used reclaimed aluminum printing plates on which to create his landscape works. The metal plates were originally used to print tabloid stories and advertising, which tend to be disposed after a few uses since there are remnants of images and text. The artists states that, “All of that imagery, paired with the landscape work, creates a sense of beauty mixed with commercial messages.” It’s the juxtaposition of the natural beauty of the landscape imagery that is combined with consumerism which is the driving force behind a lot of Americans that creates such a powerful dynamic. Martin also discusses his background of living in rural Pennsylvania on a farm, and his recent passion for camping, which has changed how he relates to nature compared to … Click here to read more

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