More than just a new body of work, Robyn 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". We strongly urge you to listen to her interview on the podcast, The 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. Brooding even.
-- cobbled together from emails written to the artist by Western Exhibitions
Robyn O'Neil's last solo show in Chicago was in 2009 at Tony Wight Gallery. 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.