Squaring the Circle a solo art exhibition by Burton Kopelow
curated by David Orr
On View: January 15-February 26, 2022
Opening Reception and Book Launch: January 15, 1-5pm, Panel discussion 3pm
Closing Reception: February 26 1-5pm, Panel discussion 3pm
PRS is excited to present both an exhibition of paintings by visionary California colorist, Burton Kopelow, as well as a book launch for a new full-color publication about his life and work. Kopelow's catalogue ranges from abstract, mystical mandalas reflecting his interest in Jung, alchemy, consciousness, and personal transformation, to figurative works with mythological and Dionysian themes. On view were two large-scale (81” x 81”) mandala paintings—vibrant representatives of Kopelow’s seminal abstract series, Chromorphism. Chromorphism codified the artist’s philosophical vision centered on Theosophy, Tibetan thangka paintings, and the thought of C. G. Jung, especially his psychology of mandalas, which Jung considered expressions of the total Self. Squaring the Circle is remarkable for being the third ever exhibition of Kopelow’s work and the very first time these select paintings have been shown. PRS is a fitting place for such a display, as Kopelow explored the subjects of his passionate interests in the PRS library and corresponded with PRS founder, Manly Hall, regarding the Society’s collection of mandalas.
Squaring the Circle’s opening reception will include presentations by curator David Orr and Nancy Blumstein, author of the stunning retrospective book, Burton Kopelow: Paths of Discovery, which celebrates its debut on this occasion (copies will be available for purchase during the event, as well as through PRS’ on-site and online bookstore). A roundtable discussion with Kopelow’s contemporaries and Sandra del Castillo, PhD., ritual artist and doctorate in Depth Psychology with a specialization in Jungian and Archetypal Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute, will follow and the Hansell Gallery will be open for preview and reception hours, allowing visitors ample time to absorb, as Orr writes, the “vivid kinetic geometry” of Kopelow’s “asymmetrical yet balanced” mandalas.
“What at first may seem to be irrational, is a dimension of consciousness-expanded awareness resulting in visions that turn on colors and forms. These paintings incorporate changes so intimate that they achieve consistency. I call this experience Chromorphism.” – Burton Kopelow
Burton Kopelow (1924-2015) was a Brooklyn-born, self-taught artist and early resident of the Downtown LA Loft scene in the 1980s. He discovered his artistic calling and dedication to color when, as a teen, a shade of ultramarine blue sang to him from a Titian painting while wandering New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kopelow received a Purple Heart after being wounded in World War II and thereafter studied literature and philosophy at NYU under the GI Bill. His interest in philosophy expanded upon moving to Los Angeles and frequenting institutions like the Philosophical Research Society, where he encountered metaphysics and Theosophy’s influence on early 20th century art.
Kopelow’s work, which numbers over 3,000 pieces, draws from multiple chapters of his colorful, bohemian life in the US and Mexico and tells the story of an artist who explored and invented radically different styles over his lifetime. His catalogue ranges from abstract, mystical mandalas reflecting his interest in Jung, alchemy, consciousness, and personal transformation, to figurative works with mythological and Dionysian themes.
While living in Sacramento and San Francisco in the 1970s, Kopelow created his philosophical opus in paint with a series and practice he called Chromorphism. As Blumstein writes, Chromorphism exemplified Kopelow’s “use of painting as a personal meditative tool. The 24 large-scale canvases of Chromorphism are intended as a transformative journey and were designed to be shown together” to produce, in Kopelow’s words, a “visual symphony.”
Kopelow worked in relative obscurity until 2014, just one year before his passing, when his first solo show at LA Artcore’s Brewery Annex launched to much fanfare and record attendance. Even despite limited mobility in later years, he continued painting daily, driven by a never-ending pursuit to glean deeper knowledge through artistic practice. Kopelow was greatly admired by his peers as an “artist’s artist,” who had an intense work ethic, ignored artworld trends, and painted for the sheer joy of it. // burtonkopelow.com
David Orr, an LA-based artist and curator, is the founder of the Hansell Gallery and the contemporary arts program at PRS. // david-orr.com
images: Burton Kopelow, Chromorphism I – Dissolution – Green, No. 2 Yellow [Ritual Dance of the Four Directions], 1975; Burton Kopelow, Chromorphism I – Dissolution – Green, No. 5 Red [Solar Flare Tropical], 1979; photos of exhibition by David Orr