The opening of the Opera Gallery’s newly curated exhibition of the 20th century Expressionist painter, Bernard Buffet (1928-1999) is a powerful and bizarre hit.
The show is full of visually striking images of portraits, urban landscapes, and still, life dating from the ’50s – ’90s, that wholly absorbs its audience into the unusual carnival of a disquiet human psyche.
As we stare into the seemingly empty and doleful appearances of Buffet’s portrait subjects we are astonished time and again by the sincerity of each character’s unflinching presence. Each painted gesture, be it physical or psychological, has been so perfectly observed and rendered, the characters almost emerge from their canvases to become almost real participants of the show.
This is Buffet’s true genius.
By perfectly depicting an inner atmosphere with such graphic precision the paintings are free from conventional burdens of storylines, narratives, and associations that often lead art towards confusion and misinterpretation. Here, the lucky viewer can rest assured he or she is not missing the point as these strange clowns and circus entertainers coolly stare back across the room. The singular qualities of expression of each portrait are so vivid and individual that we are left completely rapt by their personal existence.
Of course, it is not only these confronting frank portraits that demand your attention, but also Buffet’s renditions of lugubrious urban landscapes. Much like his figurative paintings, these sceneries are just as well as sensationally imposing with harsh, dry brushstrokes that do not betray the show’s lonely and dispassionate mood of conditionality. These uncanny and eerie paintings of an abandoned urbanization express the dreariness of man-made desolation of his civic dwellings.
NYC is lucky to have the elegant Opera Gallery, whose three floors shall remain the vanguard of modern Expressionism through June 1 by means of Bernard Buffet. The new show is exceptionally well curated and worth the visit. I encourage all to experience the sincerely beautiful depths of the artist’s signature candid Expressionism that left me, at least, fascinated.