Drinking Water in Bed
December 12, 2009 – January 16, 2010
Gallery One

Exhibition Text

ANDREW RAFACZ is pleased to announce Drinking Water in Bed, a solo exhibition of new photographs by John Opera.

Chicago, IL, December 12, 2009 – ANDREW RAFACZ finishes the 2009 season with new photographs by John Opera in Gallery Two. This is the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and continues through Saturday, January 16, 2010.

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.

JOHN OPERA (American, b. 1975) lives and works in Chicago. He received his M.F.A. from the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005. Opera was recently part of a two-person exhibition with Amir Zaki at Shane Campbell Gallery. He had a solo exhibition at Macalester College Art Gallery, St. Paul, Minnesota in 2007, and was part of the three-person exhibition MP3, at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago in 2009. A catalogue accompanying that exhibition has been published by Aperture. This is his second exhibition with the gallery.