PREVIEW: American Icons, Opera Gallery

The Opera Gallery in London will mark its 25th anniversary with an exhibition reflecting the 1980’s.

Eagle by Andy Warhol, 1983.

On display from the 20th June until the 5th July, the Opera Gallery will recreate 1980’s New York street culture with its new exhibition American Icons, featuring works by artists such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol and Alexander Calder.

All of the art that is displayed in the exhibition will reflect the 1980’s which saw the drugs epidemic, the AIDS crisis, the cold war, widespread capitalism, space races, and high unemployment. This decade also saw the rise in technology and new trends in fashion and music. An influential moment in history, this post-war period saw artists from Europe and Asia migrate to the United States as they searched for cultural emancipation while seeking to challenge the world through their art, in an optimistic way. 

Renowned artist and activist Keith Haring is at the centre of this iconic exhibition who, alongside his close friends and fellow artists such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, collaborated to shock and amaze people all over the world with their accessible yet hard-hitting subjects and animated colourful artworks that explored the political chaos of this era.

Haring used his work to raise awareness of the AIDS. Using ideals from the 60s popular culture to inject positive symbols and political messages into creating evocative art for the masses, Keith Haring created more than 50 large-scale works and his imagery has become a widely regarded visual Zeitgeist of New York City in the late 20th century. The exhibition will display a large number of his best original works that epitomise his well-known absurdist style. 

Meanwhile, American Icons can also be seen to champion the female representations as Tom Wesselmann explores the female form with two vibrant oil paintings produced twenty-five years apart. These are juxtaposed by contemporary works by Alex Katz in his portrait of a young woman and Mel Ramos’ striking sculpture depicting a female nude breaking out of a packet of M&Ms – the iconic Pop Art movement which lives on.

Talking about the exhibition Federica Beretta, Director at Opera Gallery London, said: “American Icons is a highly energetic and thought-provoking exhibition, celebrating Opera Gallery’s 25th anniversary. The diverse and experimental artists left their mark in art history and revolutionised the art world, pushing boundaries as they reimagined the functionality of sculpture and painting, while exploiting taboo subject matters and social commentaries, appropriating popular imagery and giving them new lease of life”. 

American Icons will be on display at the Opera Gallery from the 20th June until the 5th July.

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