Projects > Writing Produced

Exhibition Review


John Opera: Anthotypes
Andrew Rafacz Gallery
835 West Washington, Chicago, Illinois
Through May 14, 2011

John Opera is a time traveler. He is not alone: many photographers have also concerned themselves with bending time. Opera's work exists to experiment in the present, but it always questions and refers back the past; the vast and image-laden history of photography simmers on the surface of his prints. His newest body of work is a process-laden yet ethereal group of anthotypes, an early form of photographic image-making (using plant matter and solar exposure) that came into being in the 1840s, following the advent of modern photography.

Opera's process is two-fold and time-intensive. Painting with inks on water (as in marbleizing paper) in a glass-bottomed tray over an exposure unit, Opera creates a liquid composition. He then exposes the image to light and onto a contact print, creating a negative. This marbleized negative becomes the substrate for the final monotype prints. Acting as a stencil, the negative image covers paper treated with natural dyes (blueberries, beets, pokeberries, and chokeberries) that fade away when left to age in sunlight for weeks at a time.

Beyond the process—a flash conception and a pre-industrial gestation—these anthotypes take their time to reach you. As does much of Opera's work, the anthotypes exist very physically in nature: as oil on water, as plant on paper, as an effect of light and time. The result is floral affair of sunspots, solar flares, and eclipses. They are also transcendental; beyond the physical, fueled by chance.

The images hover in simultaneous planes, both microbial and cosmic. Opera manages to capture the miniature in slow-motion and the universal as it fast-forwards. Indeed, the anthotypes project a filmic world where moments are rendered in an instant in time and then aged. Remote in hand, Opera directs the play, pause, and record. It's irrevocably cinematic, yet, perhaps the only thing we're watching is the suction of light time-traveling through a television screen's powered-off afterglow. (Julia V. Hendrickson)

Published on Printeresting here.

John Opera: Anthotypes (Chicago)
(Exhibition Review) | Printeresting
April 2011