'Julian Opie: OP.VR@LISSON/London' reviewed in The Brooklyn Rail
18 March 2023
According to artist Julian Opie (b. 1958), there’s a complete shift in the way people understand imagery today. Often, Opie notices viewers reaching for their pockets in search of their phones, in hopes of documenting the art they observe. Yet, with work that incorporates virtual reality (VR), photographs can’t be taken because the work isn’t truly there. Those who are curious about the implications of this are invited to fasten their portable headsets and immerse themselves in Opie’s unique take on VR. In a show titled OP.VR@LISSON/London currently open at Lisson Gallery in London, the renowned artist is showcasing both virtual reality and non-VR works in a groundbreaking multiroom experience, blending the body, architecture, and space in a manner that forces the viewer to focus on the story unfolding before them. In addition, Opie has also revisited older works—repurposing drawings, sculptures, and installations to mirror the VR he’s expertly crafted.
In the gallery space, different rooms take on different meanings. One room features several flat, painted wood and aluminum works that either hang flush to the wall or stand on pedestals, and which become animated installations of people walking when viewed through the VR headset: colorful yet featureless figures choreographed in passing as they move down the street. In another room, Dance 2 step 2. (2022) depicts animated bodies performing moves reminiscent of those one might find on TikTok, where people record themselves for public consumption, dancing in their homes or backyards. High-energy, simple dance moves like these, documented in repetition, have helped Opie bring the VR to life. The artist animated four or five seconds of the dance, working with models (among them his daughter, who is a professional dancer) to achieve a precise aesthetic, then created a loop and incorporated sound for an encompassing effect. The resulting animation, of a featureless, four-person dance troupe moving their bodies nearly in sync in front of a vibrant, solid background, suggests a troupe comprised of the everyperson. The artist uses traditional paintings—moving canvases in the VR experience—and LED screens to make the works come alive, while the looped dancers create a mesmerizing effect from which viewers can hardly look away.
Read the full review by Charles Moore in The Brooklyn Rail here.
Julian Opie: OP.VR@LISSON/London is on view through 15 April.