Painter Eric LoPresti’s “An Ocean of Light” at Burning in Water Gallery

A sublime artistic study on nuclear craters, quiet terror and atomic bomb test sites

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Hanford Site, a decommissioned nuclear production complex where engineers created plutonium for the Manhattan Project, sits a little more than 30 minutes by car from Richland, Washington—the birthplace of painter Eric LoPresti. Richland may have been an innocuous suburb, but after LoPresti’s move to New York, he took interest in Hanford’s past. Using oil and watercolor, the artist dissected components, compiled pieces and a new exhibition has been born. With “An Ocean of Light” at the Burning in Water Gallery, LoPresti’s fascination takes the form of several sublime examinations—on micro and macro levels. From a bird’s eye view of nuclear crater sites or billowing smoke to close-ups on rocks and vegetation, LoPresti captures moments both still and quietly explosive.

LoPresti drew his title from nuclear physicist Joan Hinton’s description of the Trinity atomic bomb test in 1945. “It was like being at the bottom of an ocean of light,” Hinton explained. “We were bathed in it from all directions. The light withdrew into the bomb as if the bomb sucked it up.” There’s tremendous power to these statements of observation, and LoPresti’s work does not fall behind. Instead, his imagery magnetizes. Color plays against form and reality filters through time. The result: an exhibition worth embracing.

“An Ocean of Light” is open now through 26 May.

Images courtesy of Burning in Water Gallery