You have to look carefully. Otherwise, the similarities between two radically opposing solo exhibitions by Ani Hoover and John Opera, now on view at Buffalo Arts Studios, are easy to miss.
Hoover's large and audacious abstract oils -- collectively titled "Paintings" -- seem the very antithesis of the quiet monotone photo transparencies that make up Opera's "Soup." A female artist I know suggested that Hoover's cheerfully colored panels and Opera's introspective science-tinged installation make up the art show equivalent of chick and guy flicks, respectively.
Nonetheless, for those who crave commonality between exhibits that might only be related through proximity and the fact that they share a printed invitation, there are similarities to be found.
Hoover and Opera both utilize elemental shapes that function as evocative signifiers referencing various aspects of human experience. Each also distances the viewer through constructed ambiguities that limit comprehension. The comparison abruptly ends, however, with the artist's individual methods.
In her paintings, Hoover makes repeated use of vibrantly colored circles and dots, often to abstractly represent familiar objects such as bubbles, flowers and pollen.
In her artist's statement, she refers to the resulting compositions as "fantasy worlds," a concept typified by the ebullient "Cotton Candy," which draws the viewer into a defused atmosphere of billowing pinkness of considerable ocular intensity.
In other pieces, Hoover introduces patterns into the foreground; a formal device intended to obscure the underlying painted "world." In "Martini" for instance, she places pale vertical lines over lyrically interwoven circles of cool greens and blues.
This alternating theme of revelation and suppression often seems more limiting than liberating. When Hoover avoids such formulaic devices, as with the multihued "Bubble Up," she delivers a more complex and intricately interwoven arrangement of components, brusquely executed in confident brushwork.
After a while, Hoover's exuberant works seemed a bit relentlessly cheery to my eyes. My artist friend might say it's a "guy thing," but soon I was yearning for something dark and restrained.
John Opera's dimly flickering backlighted transparencies of primal organic forms -- installed as they are in a pitch-black gallery -- met those needs. Opera's 24 postcard-size light-box images encircle viewers who, in the darkness, inhabit this primordial "Soup."
Opera's enigmatic forms provide several dilemmas in attempting to unravel their significance. Warmly glowing, the ghostlike objects seem alien, yet oddly familiar, like basic organic archetypes that we intuitively know.
They might pass for minuscule spores revealed through an electron microscope, or they could just as easily be hand-constructed objects optically "dumbed-down" through the use of primitive photographic techniques (as hinted at by the artist).
As viewers strain to resolve issues of scale and context, Opera is rummaging through their psyche.
One form appears cellular but then seems to have a face; several are nipple-like. Another resembles a black hole vortex; others suggest sex toys.
Darkness shrouds all sensory reference points but one; the passage of time is revealed through the presence of a softly lit clock hovering above.
By allowing this sole means of quantification, Opera seems to remind us in his powerfully evocative way of the ephemeral nature of photography and life itself.
WHAT: "Ani Hoover: Paintings" and "John Opera: Soup"
WHEN: Through Saturday
WHERE: Buffalo Arts Studio, Tri-Main Center, 2495 Main St., Suite 500