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May 6 - June 3, 2006 at Gallery 33 East, Long Beach

by Shirle Gottlieb

“Cymbidium Rhythm,” 2006,
acrylic on canvas, 48 x 30”

“December Serenade,” 2006,
acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48”

“Celebration,” 2006,
acrylic on canvas, 42 x 36”

“Awaiting Arrival,” 2006,
acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24”
In an age when comics are featured in major museums, when photographs taken with cell phones are exhibited in galleries, when mixed-media installations are pervasive and digital art is available to anyone with a computer, it's a distinct pleasure to see the painterly skills of Richard Lopez.

In his latest series, "Inside/Outside,” the twenty-five paintings and drawings on display range in size from 18 by 24 inches to six feet square.  Each composition is an example of superb craftsmanship, clean spontaneous brushwork, and luscious luminous color.  But most of all, Lopez is concerned with light.  Color explodes from his canvas--so radiant with life and joy--that it captures the beauty of each minute, freezing it in time.

Whether his attention falls on a single vase of fresh white roses in a pristine interior setting ("Awaiting Arrival"), or a riot of red flowers that grace the courtyard of an old California mission ("Roses and Spanish Arches"); viewers sense this artist's powerful feelings toward nature through his poetic vision of vibrant color and his skillful handling of illumination (together with its contrast, dark shadow).

A prime example is "Peninsula Abstract," a 14 by 36-inch pastel triptych in which Lopez captures the dancing reflections of light on water as it ebbs and flows against a long horizontal wharf.  In another work, "Cymbidium Rhythm," he places a glorious bouquet of white orchids (with vibrant green stems) bursting forth from a clear crystal vase on a lemon yellow table cloth.

Although most of Lopez' "Outside" scenes are devoid of figuration, some of his "Inside" pieces depict people going through the motion of everyday activities.  Like a cast of characters on a well-defined set in a well-known play, these scenes are so familiar they will be recognizable to everyone.

In "December Serenade" viewers peek through the window into the living room of a predominantly red/green/black composition that features a guitar player.  The hazy glow of candles is everywhere, illuminating the night darkness and forming halos around everyone in this family celebration.

In another, two woman are strategically placed in traditional flamenco garb in the center of a dark empty ball room.  With the sun streaming through arched doors across the floor--and a haze of light surrounding them--the silhouetted dancers stand in stark contrast, dramatically posed with fans open and bodies ready to flail.

Conversely, "Garden Entrance" (the six-foot square painting that was just completed), is a lush, high chroma, impressionistic study of the agricultural landscape in Central California (Avila Valley in particular).

According to Lopez, he has been searching for his personal style, and refining his individual vocabulary, for over 35 years.  As such, he is part of the long history of traditional painting that has been evolving since the Renaissance.

True, there is "nothing new" in this approach to painting.  Indeed, didn't Post-Modernism stake its claim on that tired old bromide, "nothing new under the sun," decades ago?  And yes, some pieces are much more successful than others.

When one considers the dexterity with which Lopez handles his paintbrush, his adroit use of vibrant color, and his strong sense of composition that plays in concert with his manipulation of light and dark, this exhibit is more than just enjoyable, it's a winner.