Sharon Kopriva: No Small Thing

Sep 13, 2019 — Jan 04, 2020

Sharon Kopriva’s art is larger than life. This is not a result of her tendency towards large-scale work, rather it is connected to how she depicts and selects her subject matter. Her points of reference run the gamut from Nazca funerary complexes and biblical plagues to forests, Peruvian hairless dogs, and seminal cultural figures. No matter what she depicts, Kopriva’s work elicits a sense of being a small part of something much greater than the individual looking at her work. She consistently illustrates how humans are part of a continuum of shared experience that can speak to fantastic achievements, but more importantly, illustrates how we are subject to powers, institutions, and feelings over which individuals seem to have little or no control. This lack of control is, in varying degrees, frightening and Kopriva embraces this.

These ideas primarily manifest themselves throughout this exhibition in many ways. The first is very human and embodied by the series of nine portraits titled Muses of the Visual Arts. The series features images of muses to cultural titans of the twentieth century. Finished this year, these are the first works of art visitors to the exhibition will see. At first, the grouping will seem small, but as one walks towards this phalanx of narrow vertical images they will grow to be larger than life while also being populated by fine details. This sense of trying to perceive detail versus an overall composition conveys the vast sense of devotion and depth of love, platonic or otherwise, that the likes of Gala and Salvador Dalí, Dolores Olmedo and Diego Rivera, and Peggy Guggenheim and Jackson Pollock felt for each other. Ultimately, the portraits are uplifting works of art about collaboration and inspiration that express the outsized role of human emotion in society, the sheer expansiveness of which is startling and hard to quantify when, good or bad, one realizes they are a slave to their feelings.

An apropos counterpoint to the abovementioned earthly example of power is Kopriva’s relatively Old Testament treatment of the metaphysical. Her depictions of landscapes and figures combine majestic and wrathful elements to create an unconventional sense of beauty. Human figures capable of doling out judgement and, equally being judged, are distorted and angular as though crippled by the weight of the power they represent. This is apparent in Penitent Woman and Cardinal. An unavoidable sense of immanent judgement is present in these and many of the other works on view.

Spending a great deal of time looking at and thinking about the work in Sharon Kopriva: No Small Thingis refreshingly humbling and ought to give one pause. At risk of presenting Kopriva’s work as resolutely Old Testament, most images you will see illustrate how even small decisions can have big consequences. As a result, the work on view is laid out in such a manner that very large art may seem small at first and conversely small works of art will have to be examined closely, thereby becoming large for the short time they are viewed up close. In combination the elements introduced here set a serious tone that merits further discussion. 

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