This artist is the subject of much critical sniffiness, thanks to his works generally being so open and people pleasing. His vinyl cuts and sculptures adorn many a public square (and the odd album cover), to general acclaim. His current show at Lisson Gallery’s Mayfair outpost is typically cute and arresting.
There are two main subjects, generally in painted metal: group scenes of crowds walking down the street, and brightly-coloured tower blocks. Opie’s figures, as always, are radically simplified. This means that we can’t really tell if they’re wearing masks; though it’s quite nice at this stage of the pandemic to see that they aren’t social distancing. Perhaps Opie’s carefree, extrovert style is a poor match for a world marked by COVID, so he’s showing us a scene from the before times.
(l-r) Old Street December 11 (2021), Apartments 1 (2021)
I loved the aluminium tower blocks, too. A collection of four is stacked against the wall for Apartments 1, overlapping each other slightly, a pristine and orderly urban scene. Opie clearly has affection for people, streets, the city, which made me think of Prunella Clough, that other London artist I featured last week, who was attracted to grimy and forgotten urban corners.
The two artists work in the same city, but highlight different aspects of the same place: Opie’s big metal works show business and order; Clough’s small paintings are the exact opposite.
London apartments (2021)
When I left the gallery there was a final surprise, which for some reason I hadn’t noticed on my way in. The full-height windows are overlaid with more of Opie’s tower blocks, this time built out of vinyl decals. So cute!
Julian Opie is at Lisson Gallery (London). 04 May – 12 June 2021