New York

John Opper

Grace Borgenicht Gallery

At the Grace Borgenicht Gallery the long-established abstract painter John Opper is showing nine sizeable paintings and a group of twelve tiny collages. To take the paintings first, all the compositions are similar, consisting of vertical wedgy rectangles, set shoulder to shoulder, which lurch and grind against one another. The few horizontal forms in each work appear, in this context, to be the narrow ends of yet other such forms pushing into the crowd from above or below. All of the forms display a variety of feathered and tighter edges that establish the possibility of an extremely restricted and impacted schematic space. The only relief these log jam arrangements enjoy is a border of white on and around the edges of the canvases which sets off the central formal construct from the unspecific territory of the wall behind.

The compositional viewpoint in all these paintings is an attenuation of late synthetic Cubist notions. It is rescued from worn vapidity here by the warm palette; Opper’s fine sanguine color gives his matte pictures rich preponderances of plummy maroons, tart oranges, warm browns, scarlets and magentas. Even his few blues warm up sympathetically in such company. The most impressive of Opper’s warm-blooded elegances is the big and handsome September 66. In it, some measure of drama and its resolution appear amidst what in other works is not a heck of a lot more than a relaxed (and relaxing) manifestation of interpretive sensibility to certain modern classics.

The small collages are structurally related to the paintings, but they are far more adventurous and sportive in their effects. The cut painted paper forms are jumpier and higher in color. These stronger value contrasts and brighter hues, animated by the accent of an emphatic diagonal form here and there, radiate a genuine lively charm, felicitously appropriate to the scale of the works.

Dennis Adrian