EVERYTHING OP IS NEW AGAIN: The Persistence and Recrudescence of Optical
David Richard Gallery
2015 October 10
“Re-Op: ‘The Responsive Eye’ Fifty Years After”, currently on view at David Richard Gallery is the third in a series of presentations co-curated by Peter Frank, critic, curator and historian and David Eichholtz, gallerist, curator and historian that critically examines and reconsiders “The Responsive Eye”, the seminal exhibition organized by William C. Seitz at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1965. This particular installation explores contemporary artworks by artists who were included in the exhibit at MoMA as well as their contemporaries and later generations of artists. All of them share an interest in exploring optical art and visual perception.
Following is the catalogue essay written by Peter Frank.
EVERYTHING OP IS NEW AGAIN: The Persistence and Recrudescence of Optical
Art Practice, 1970-2015
By Peter Frank
Op Art, treated in its day as a craze or phase, has proven far more durable than its original detractors and even supporters anticipated. For one thing, many of its practitioners viewed it far more seriously than did those commenting upon it; the original Op artists have always considered Op an approach grounded in credible aesthetic evolution and substantive scientific research. For another, they recognized from the beginning that the formal language of Op allowed it to be attractive to the relatively unsophisticated viewer at the same time as it proposed radical extensions of established modernist practice. This was a great part of Op’s appeal, especially in the wake of Pop, a style that had set a tone for its time with its playful character. Similarly, Op could engage a non-professional as well as professional audience in matters of serious physio- and psychological as well as aesthetic investigation. While Pop could be assessed as a socially inflected art (indeed, as a social phenomenon), Op could be assessed as scientific inquiry. From the start – and even more than with Pop – Op Art’s most enthusiastic audience drew from a relatively casual viewership, while the art world often regarded it with suspicion and disdain. In the intervening years, that suspicion and disdain gave way to grudging respect, and certainly to an acknowledgment of Op’s historic pedigree. But the crowd-pleasing aspect of the practice remained irksome in the eyes of the mainstream art world – at least until a younger generation of abstract artists, in its search for new means of invention (especially within a newly forged post-modernist stance), began exploiting Op’s funhouse quality, not simply for its affront to “good taste” (although certainly with that in mind as well), but for its ever-fresh, ever-startling revelations about the vagaries of human visual perception.
This exhibition completes the stylistic (if not yet the historic) arc being traced by the series of shows comprising David Richard Gallery’s “Fifty Years After” series. “Re-Op” looks at later work by various American participants featured in “The Responsive Eye” and their contemporaries and near-contemporaries, and pairs these with works by younger artists – also American – who for various reasons and to various ends have re-employed the languages and effects brought together by William C. Seitz at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Even though the show traveled to four additional venues around the country, most of the latter generation represented here were too young to have seen or even known about the show – if they were even alive at that moment. But a number of them were fortunate enough to study with participants in the broader Op movement, and, clearly, all of them display a keen awareness of what many of the movement’s protagonists achieved and the rigor and discipline they exercised in that achievement.
“Re-Op” affords us a comparison between the works of the original Op generation, even as those works postdate the “Op moment,” and the achievements of a younger generation (or two). Indeed, that the fact that the older artists are represented here by works that are arguably more mature and more stand-alone than those of the “Op era.” allows us to distance them from the tumult of the mid-1960s and to evaluate these Op stalwarts, whatever their other allegiances (color-field, hard edge, kinetic, finish/fetish), as individuals. This, in turn, clarifies the independence-minded self-possession so many of the younger artists evince. They do not form, certainly not consciously, a “neo-Op” tendency. The formal languages they employ are even more diverse than their elders’, and their purposes, while clearly sharing a preoccupation with human vision, are even more disparate.
Still, it could be argued that the younger artists here together establish something of a neo-Op idiom. Their way of working may honor their teachers’ and forerunners’, but it also embraces the technological – and especially the material – advances of their time. To be sure, in their day the older artists were themselves pioneers of new means and materials, driven equally by curiosity and necessity. In that regard, the younger artists inherit and perpetuate their elders’ spirit. But the materials, processes, and supports employed by the artists born after World War II (and even the Vietnam War) reflect a profoundly changed world, one in which image projections are stable, reflective sign materials are commonly available, and there is a general presumption that, at some point along the development of an artwork or series, digital means are engaged. Steel, aluminum, collage, airbrushed paint, stencils, and, certainly, plastics recur from older generation to newer. But by now, the advice imparted in The Graduate – “Plastics!” – is retrospective rather than predictive.
It should be noted that the younger artists represented in “Re-Op” not only follow the original Op generation, but follow (or just overlap with) an intervening generation whose critique of “art” as an expression of “visual culture” gave them license to return to the questions posed and means proposed by Op Art. The emergence of the militantly post- modernist “neo-geo” trend in the mid-1980s, for instance, re-valorized the language of geometry while freeing it of its modernist responsibilities to utopian goals. The impulse to investigate visual phenomena for their own sake – which had impelled most of the original Op artists, and for which the art world had scolded them – was restored to a dignified status in artistic discourse. The neo-geo artists, in turn, had taken a few cues from the pattern painters of a decade previous – some of whom had themselves emerged in the context of Op.
Of course, some of the younger artists here – as, indeed, certain of the older – maintain extra-visual concerns in their work, addressed to theory and/or wider, non-visual praxis. But the appearance of things, and how audience reception of that appearance changes under modified circumstances, is at the heart of all the work on view. In the 1960s Op artists were hard pressed to claim the same contrarian sources that had given rise to Pop; if Dada grandmaster Marcel Duchamp could opine that “the viewer completes the work of art,” Op artists of the day had to explain such subjectivity in analytical terms, or be dismissed as visual entertainers. Today’s Re-Op artists, younger and older, are not burdened with that onus: if they work with optical illusion, they are concerned with both optics and illusions, and that suffices.
DRprojects at David Richard Gallery featuring Matthew Kluber, Phillis Ideal, Gregory Botts, and Michael Scott
DRprojects at David Richard Gallery www.DavidRichardGallery.com is a platform that allows the gallery to highlight new and experimental artworks by the gallery’s artists as well as guest artists and curators. It is a pleasure introducing new talent and exciting artwork to the community and our collectors.
Currently, DRprojects is featuring new artworks by the following artists.
Matthew Kluber has 3 new projections on view in the gallery in a project called “Electr-O-Pura”. Specifically, they are computer-generated digital images projected onto a painted aluminum panel. The combination of the light-based moving digital imagery and stationary painted surface creates a unique hybrid that is stunning. His clever programming and software keeps them fresh. They are like slow moving paintings. Each measures 48” tall by 96” wide. Check them out in the gallery or view short videos of each on the website at http://www.davidrichardgallery.com/Matthew-Kluber-Art.cfm?ArtistsID=805&NewID=8621
Phillis Ideal’s new collages in hot summer colors are featured the project “Copy, Paste, Save”. Ideal pours, brushes, sweeps and smears paint onto a variety of supports: canvas, paper, panel and the floor. The strokes and puddles of color are then cut and assembled onto larger supports and collaged with portions of her works on paper, screens and other found materials. See her new abstractions at http://www.davidrichardgallery.com/Exhibit_Detail.cfm?ShowsID=270
Gregory Botts. Earlier this summer the gallery presented a selection of larger site and studio paintings by Botts, side-by-side in a salon hang similar to his presentation in March of this year at Austin Peay University. The presentation shed light on his intricate process for creating his wonderful studio paintings. That process takes representational imagery from paintings from various site locations and combines them with elements of abstraction, all set to the rhythms of poetry, and infused with art criticism and history. The results are compelling paintings that capture a cycle of nature and the evolution of contemporary art. This selection, “The Southern Route” focuses on smaller site paintings, mostly from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and California. See them in person in the gallery’s Viewing Room and on the following web page: http://www.davidrichardgallery.com/Exhibit_Detail.cfm?ShowsID=271
Continuing with landscape painting, Michael Scott’s new project is painting grand landscapes from American National Parks and forests. However, there are some interesting twists and uses of materials, but you will have to wait until the masterpieces are completed and ready to exhibit. Scott’s painting practice strives to capture the awe and scale of nature in the tradition of American landscape painting. He does this by creating a spiritual connection with the landscape and focusing on metaphysical symbols from Native culture—the wolf, owl, spiral of smoke, etc. This project, “On The Road Again” features a number of small studies for the larger scale paintings that Scott painted while traveling around the country in his Bambi camper. See these great studies in the gallery’s Viewing Room or on the following webpage: http://www.davidrichardgallery.com/Exhibit_Detail.cfm?ShowsID=272
Written by David Eichholtz
Santa Fe, August 30, 2015
Art Matters Santa Fe with Kathrine Erickson and David Eichholtz interviewed by Kathryn Davis
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The in-gallery events of “Art Matters | Santa Fe”, hosted by individual galleries and museums and sponsored by the Santa Fe Gallery Association, will feature the diversity of artwork in Santa Fe as well as critical discussions and lectures regarding the specific artists and art historical time periods presented by the host galleries. These events, intended to focus on the galleries, their artists and curatorial programs, will appeal to collectors and art enthusiasts as well as academics and historians and showcase the depth and expertise of Santa Fe gallery collections and owners respectively. The artwork ranges from contemporary abstraction and figuration, modern masters and French Impressionists, film, installations and interactive presentations to historic and twentieth-century Native American art, Japanese Samurai warrior armor and Japanese painting.
Max Almy & Teri Yarborw interviewed by Kathryn Davis on ArtBeat
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Teri Yarbrow and Max Almy are Emmy, AFI and NEA award winning internationally exhibited video and installation artists known for pushing the boundaries of art and technology. Their complex installations seamlessly combine video, constructed surfaces, painting, digital imagery, flat screens and video projection to create dramatic, mesmerizing artworks. The newest creations are mandala-like multi-media pieces that incorporate flat screens behind large waterjet-cut, patinated copper circles, on to which moving digital images are projected that spill on to the wall and span a diameter of 72 inches.
Richard Faralla – Interview with David Eichholtz and Maggie Faralla by Bob Ross on KSFR 101.1FM
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June Wayne – David Eichholtz interviewed by Kathryn Davis
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David Richard Gallery is pleased to present, The Tapestries: Forces of Nature and Beyond, a solo exhibition celebrating the glorious tapestries and life of the multi-media artist June Wayne. The gallery exclusively represents and will offer for sale for the first time in several decades the 16 hand-woven tapestries produced from 1970 through 1974 in France by the legendary artist June Wayne. The tapestries were based upon lithographs produced by Wayne, featuring her contemporary images in a historic medium and artistic practice. Centered around three technology-based themes of interest to Wayne: waves, DNA and the cosmos, the tapestries were most recently exhibited in Chicago at the Art Institute of Chicago, June Wayne’s Narrative Tapestries: Tidal Waves, DNA, and the Cosmos, November 3, 2010–May 15, 2011.
DAVID RICHARD GALLERY Opens with a great crowd
David Richard Gallery opened last night with a crowd of 300+. The gallery opening featured two inaugural exhibitions. The first, Color Affect, is a solo exhibition of paintings by Robert Swain in the atrium gallery. The second is a group exhibition, Seeing Red, presented in the perimeter gallery and mezzanine spaces that features the color red in a selection of artwork by guest and gallery artists including: Philip Baldwin & Monica Guggisberg, Laura de Santillana, Gabriele Evertz, Richard Faralla, Beverly Fishman, Harmony Hammond, Maxwell Hendler, Tom Holland, Tim Jag, Matsumi Kanemitsu, Tom Martinelli, Scott Malbaurn, Robert Motherwell, Julian Stanczak, Yozo Suzuki, Robert Swain, Leo Valledor and Toots Zynsky.
David Richard Gallery, LLC | 544 South Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (855) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284
David Richard Contemporary, LLC | 130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 982-0318 | f (505) 982-0351
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday or by appointment