Critic’s Pick: John Opera at Andrew Rafacz Gallery /

“Zoar” by John Opera

In his new body of work, the Chicago-based photographer John Opera skillfully and conspicuously leaps from landscape to abstract photography. When creating works in the former category, Opera nearly takes an ironic jab at the genre’s tropes but ultimately smartly reworks his references, particularly in the show’s centerpiece, Zoar, 2006–2008. Shooting from across a meandering stream at Zoar Valley in upstate New York, the artist captures a solitary man—a hippie, perhaps—with his shirt off and his hair long and tousled, sitting next to a fire while peacefully smoking a joint.

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