Dec 12th 2009

Matt Stolle: MODERNISTPHALLUS and John Opera: Drinking Water in Bed

@ Andrew Rafacz Gallery

835 W Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607

Opening Saturday, December 12th, from 4PM - 7PM

On view through Saturday, January 16th

Is the monochrome just another Modernist fallacy, or is it a weighty, meaty thing, engorged with paint and meaning? Matt Stolle continues his investigation of the monochromatic object. For the artist, the monochrome is a convergence of historical properties: hard-edged abstraction, cool Minimalism, and Modernist detritus. With or without this history, though, the spare and solid monochromes simply feel good-to look at and to make.

Stolle plays with his monochrome. He crushes picture planes into three-dimensional objects and pulls them apart again. He coaxes symmetry from uneven shares. He glosses surfaces and tightens angles, sprays sheets of paint and joins piece to piece. It takes a lot of work to make something so spare. The objects are physical, tactile things, minimal and brute, but often contain small moments of visual delicacy. Yes, they are self-evident and whole objects. Yes, they are intensely formal, and they reward intense gazing.

As a maker, Stolle often creates challenges that require fixing. For instance, one support may be structurally unsound, so he secures it with layers of paint. Or a found square object may be missing its corner. To restore its symmetry, Stolle builds it out and matches its deep black color with graphite, a different medium with a similar tone. Such restorations are not painterly tricks or games, but rather tactics to help objects retain their integrity as objects. They are self-aware and physically present objects. This is either the phallus, or the fallacy.

New photographs by John Opera in Gallery Two.

Comprised of three distinct but almost imperceptibly different portraits of a woman bringing a glass of water to her lips, Drinking Water in Bed is a study in interiority and intimacy. Unlike the unknown figure in a vast landscape depicted in his previous photograph Zoar, the subject in Drinking Water in Bed is presented in more intimate proximity to the artist. Much like the figure that appears in the artist’s earlier works, the subject in this case is also engaged in a singular and perhaps solitary activity. She is darkly lit, revealing her silhouette and very little else. The scene is a bedroom and she is sitting upright, in mid-drink of a glass of water. Nothing adorns the wall or bed and the photograph is largely filled with stark contrasts of light and dark. No other figure is revealed, and the narrative of the photograph happens in media res. This minimal field of referents allows the viewer to focus primarily on the compositional elements of the image and the meditative quality of the action depicted.

Opera’s previous body of work dealt largely with the dialectic of interiority and exteriority. It simultaneously outlined the artist’s own relationship to the natural world and its abstraction, both in ontological and aesthetic terms. Drinking Water in Bed furthers these interests. In his earlier interior documentations such as Purple Diamond, Opera references twentieth century painting, especially geometric abstraction. Here, he takes a similar approach, exploring the trope of the nude in classical painting and early photography. The natural world is also manifested prominently, in the depiction of water sustaining the photograph’s subject, but this simple relationship is extended into oneiric and erotic possibilities. Water as a metaphor for dreaming, sex and the female body has long been referenced in all forms of art, and Opera returns to these ideas by presenting them directly, without irony or hyperbole. The result is a series of minimal depictions that maximize their emotional and ontological impact.

Official Website

More events on this date

Tags: ,