NO NAMES: Recent Sculpture by Elisabeth Higgins O'Connor
Recent sculpture by
ELISABETH HIGGINS O’CONNOR
January 24 – February 28 2009
Opening Reception Sat, January 24, 6-9 PM
Amidst the current climate of pandemic ecumenicalism in the visual arts, in which all approaches to image-making can lay equal claim to a measure of potential viability, it seems that the central question is no longer which medium, or language, to chose - but rather how does one go about saying something that’s actually heard, against the din of continual chatter. An unintended consequence of the present proliferation of media and styles seems to be a weariness and sense of deja-vu, a realization that while there may be more ways of saying things, there aren’t necessarily more things to be said.
The work of Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor manages to elicit that rarest of responses, the deep and persistent disquietude of the unfamiliar. Looming seven-foot anthropomorphs, made out discarded textiles, fabrics and cushions, perhaps have an unique capacity in this regard. Scaled just slightly above human size, the No-Names encourage identification while implying menace. And yet their patchwork construction of quilts and fabrics is nothing more than soft armor - tied together with skeins of twine and bursting at the seams, they remain a collection of fragments, continually at the point of seeming dissolution.
These fragments, cast-away cushions and left-over textiles somehow conspire to form things of strange beauty, modern-day incarnations of the Renaissance grotesque. It is perhaps not accidental that O’Connor taught at UC Davis, where Robert Arneson and Roy De Forest helped create the Funk Art movement of the 1960’s. Yet unlike her Funk predecessors, who were taking a polemical stand against the hegemony of Abstract Expressionism, O’Connor does not need inhabit a self-consciously naive pictoral style -
the fragmentary and collaged nature of her work is more a function of her appreciation and focus on materiality, and how it can best be utilized to create work that resists easy categorization and the casual glance.
Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor lives and works in Sacramento, CA. In 2005, she won a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award. This is her first show with the gallery.