O'NEIL returns to Chicago.
In her first solo show at Western Exhibitions, Robyn O’Neil
presents new works on paper: oil pastel and graphite drawings,
portraying expressionistic scenes populated by disembodied floating
heads, monks, ears, mysterious female figures, faceless busts
and other enigmatic characters. In gallery 2, she has curated
the first solo show by Atlanta-based sculptor, Eli Jones. Both
shows open on Friday, April 26 with a free public reception
from 5 to 8pm, and run through June 1, 2013.
than just a new body of work, O'Neil reveals entirely new imagery
and concerns (and uses, shockingly, some color), while retiring
the mysterious sweatsuit-clad men who have populated her epic
and emotional drawings for the past 12 years. The retirement
of the middle-aged sweatsuit men, from her "End of the
World" series, begun in 2001, comes after the two-year
creation of O'Neil's most ambitious work to date, a massive
triptych aptly titled HELL, last presented in New York
City in 2011. The making of HELL took a heavy psychic
toll on O'Neil as she barricaded herself from the outside world
in order to complete this project. She saw this time and this
piece as a period of self-punishment and repentance which forced
her, in her own words, to "restructure absolutely everything".
strongly urge you to listen to her interview on the podcast,
Artist's Conversation, where O'Neil speaks candidly, incredibly
so, about the hell of HELL.
Hey Robyn, This new work could be read as a sort of reversal
of your apocalyptic themes of the past 12 years. I see tectonic
plates floating around, tribal encampments dotting spare landscapes.
Looks to me like the beginning of time, or what comes after
HELL. These new figurative drawings are moody and nervy, in
a good way, depicting a kind of psychological surrealism. Some
of these drawings -- the landscape-y ones with what looks to
be clouds over mountains, remind me of Arthur Dove (one of my
faves). I know that you are reticent to discuss just what, exactly,
is going on in this body of work, but it seems to be, to me,
about death and re-birth, mental landscapes (thought-scapes?)
rendered visible for the first time. Ghosts and remembrances,
evidence of struggles. I keep coming back to the word moody
-- I love how moody these drawings are, so dark with the chiaroscuro,
so restless with the snippets of surreal imagery and energy.
-- cobbled together from emails written to the artist by Western
O’Neil’s last solo show in Chicago was in 2009.
She was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1977 and currently lives
in Los Angeles, California. O'Neil has been included in numerous
group exhibitions throughout the US and internationally. Some
of the venues in which she has exhibited include the Kemper
Museum of Contemporary Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art in
Chicago, American University Museum in Washington, DC, and The
Museum of Contemporary Art in Tampa, Florida. Her work was included
in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. She is the recipient of numerous
grants and awards, including an Irish Film Board Award for a
film written and art directed by her entitled "WE, THE
MASSES" which was conceived at Werner Herzog’s Rogue
Film School. Although some of her favorite things include The
Karate Kid, Lifetime Movie Network, and Dawson’s Creek,
she claims to maintain a fairly average intelligence.