Beautiful Deception

Susan Kandel

Los Angeles Times review

November 11, 1993


       In his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Peter Hopkins shows a series of staggeringly beautiful paintings at Christopher Grimes Gallery. These are, however, quite deceptive. Produced without paint, brush or the artist’s touch, each is a conceptual trope, dictated by a unique, predetermined and minutely calibrated system.

      “Site O” is as delicious as one of Helen Frankenthaler’s stain paintings. Only thepainterly incident is due to something as unaesthetic as grime. “Site O” is, in fact, a double bedsheet that has been slept on for a specified amount of time, dragged through New York’s east River, and overlaid with a thin sheet of taffeta, for that special sparkle, only art possesses – in theory, that is.

       Hopkins’ paintings muddy up (quite literally) the purity of the abstractions they conjure. They are tainted objects, soaked not with pigment, but with surgical dye, bleach, or any number of  noxious substances; and layered not with imagery, but with bolts of cheap, glittery fabric. In bringing the detritus of the post-industrial environment into the bright, white realm of pure visuality, Hopkins adheres to the dialectical character of Robert Smithson, to whom the younger artist has long paid homage.

        Yet whereas Smithson’s “non-sites” – rocks and debris imported into the gallery space from various “sites” –hinge upon an oscillation between inside and outside, the determinate and the indeterminate, the one and the many, Hopkins paintings do not.

Their sheer beauty consumes everything in their orbit, including the myriad implications of the materials that formed them. Here, then, there is no back-and-forth.

        Hopkins also puts several perfumed pieces on display. These likewise follow an elaborately detailed plan and attempt to infect the gallery space with the carnal excess that space habitually represses. Yet, as with Hopkins’ paintings, the information the viewer brings to these scented works dissipates in their very presence. Though the artist seems determined to demonstrate how things might work otherwise, sensuality overwhelms the mind – again, and yet again.

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