Cabinets de Curiosités. | Peter Opheim at ROODGALLERY.

In The Menu, Visual Arts by Alexandra Fanning

Red Hook’s newest gallery space, ROODGALLERY, has recently transformed into a fantastical shop-like space for strange figurines and looming paintings of unearthly creatures.

Wunderkammer, a solo presentation of abstract-turned figurative painter Peter Opheim, utilizes the gallery’s unconventional space to transform into a fictional cabinets de curiosités incorporating Opheim’s monumental oil paintings with corresponding figurative sculptures. Quirkily presented within custom, handmade wooden vitrines, the space is reminiscent of a toy shop or fun-house, with colorful “life size” paintings along with a new series of smaller works and small sculptures. There’s even a face-in- a-hole photo op for the kids.

Beginning as small marquette’s made from colored clay, the figures are transferred into larger-than- life oil paintings featuring lovingly painted creatures with radiant, bulging features, disjointed body parts and various skewed orifices. Like characters from a children’s claymation cartoon, the paintings uncannily capture the textures of the 3-D objects. Although seemingly childlike, these subjects take on a more mature existence.

Merging childhood and adulthood – concepts that we ordinarily prefer to keep separate – they evoke almost unsettling effects. While charming and whimsical from afar, they shatter any idea of fantastical nostalgia with subjects that are grotesque and mutated upon further inspection.

Modern “wunderkammer” tends to categorize objects included as belonging to natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art and antiquities. Deemed a microcosm or theater of the world, Opheims figurines become a study of a fictional people, their relics and history. He describes them as a fantastical “population” or race, having their own personalities, going about their daily lives, positioning them doing everyday tasks, and in some cases, even having sex. Creating these imaginary characters in a meditative way, none of these subjects is created from anything referential, never planned, and never functional. He compares his characters to mythology, where creatures are composed in a very functional way for their use in the story. Opheim see’s his figures as the opposite.

This show will be open by appointment throughout August, get in touch with to experience Wunderkammer for yourself.