Born and raised in Hackensack, New Jersey, Deborah Oropallo was exposed to the New York art scene of the 1960s. At a young age, she was inspired by Pop Art by the likes of Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg. Looking at the work of these pioneers, she fast became aware of the significant influence that photography had on contemporary art. She attended Alfred University in New York for her bachelor’s degree, and went on to pursue her graduate studies at Berkeley, where she studied under the venerated painter Elmer Bischoff. Since receiving her M.A. and than an M.F.A. in 1983, she has won numerous prestigious awards such as the National Endowment for the Arts (1991), the Modern Masters Award (1998), and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award (2005). Oropallo’s works are included in numerous museum collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A solo exhibition of her “Guise” series was mounted at the deYoung Museum in 2008.

Deborah Oropallo’s ‘Heroine’ chic at Wirtz

The new work of Bay Area painter Deborah Oropallo at Wirtz brought J.G. Ballard’s 1973 novel “Crash” to mind. The mingling of laceration and erotica that Oropallo achieves pictorially recalls Ballard’s nearly unreadable account of people – men, primarily – obsessed with arousal by vehicular impact and its aftermath, though the crack-ups that Oropallo evokes litter the information highway.

Oropallo has titled her show “Heroine,” which the ear pertinently equates with “heroin.” The title might refer to the artist herself, to the lubriciously posed women whose images she has lifted from the Internet or to the addictive hold that online pornography has on some of its consumers. “What Have You Done?” (2012) exemplifies Oropallo’s process of printing on painted canvas imagery that she has cadged from the Internet and digitally shredded. In her hands, even abstraction loses its innocence and regains something of the visceral impact it might have had for generations comfortable only with immersion in handmade images. The painted grounds of Oropallo’s pictures suggest a space flooded with fluorescent light. Dot patterns intrude, linking the work to old comics and uses that predecessors such as Roy Lichtenstein and Sigmar Polke made of them. But by the clinical lighting of her images and their relentless, though bloodless, insinuation of violence, Oropallo seems to intend a kind of anatomy lesson – a theme with a distinguished artistic pedigree – with the common culture serving as patient, or cadaver.

Her pictures probe for the unlocated gland that governs appetites for mediated sex and violence – including far-off wars – and that anesthetizes us to their spiritual wounds.

— Kenneth Baker, Saturday, March 31, 2012

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