William J. O'Brien and Anthony Pearson
17 Nov - 08 Dec 2007
Typical of his practice, William J. O'Brien utilizes a ranging assortment of media for this exhibition. Incorporating drawing, ceramic, assemblage painting and sculpture in a variety of scale and texture, the artist's relationship with his disparate materials provides each an equitable treatment. O'Brien pushes the boundaries of materiality with both an abstract and figurative vocabulary, with the studied precision of his drawings giving way to the more relaxed formalism and handcrafted feel of the sculptural and assemblage constructions. The artist's seemingly intuitive process lends itself to the physicality of his works, combining found objects, appropriated images and handmade elements into abstracted amalgamations. The large, patterned drawings feel almost like quilting, carefully pieced together over a lengthy period. O'Brien's smaller drawings, also abstractions rendered in color pencil, evoke a stronger conceptual feel, akin to those of Sol LeWitt. The figurative drawings, life-size in scale, form a triptych of gestural study.
In a seeming range of clean to very messy, O'Brien deals with repetition and mantra, weighing his usage of materials in an 'appropriate' manner. The sense of inclusiveness and tangible immediacy of his textured and drawn works also broach questions of physical presence and external demonstration, as O'Brien pursues the translation of work from the studio to public display.
Anthony Pearson uses photography and bronze sculpture as his primary media. Arriving at bronze, by way of photography, he uses the material as a means to illuminate and complicate his picture-making concerns. With much of Pearson's work being decisively formal and abstract, his sculptures are often realized in the form of bas-relief and frontal "slabs." When these cast works are placed alongside the silver gelatin prints, in what the artist calls "Arrangements," the juxtaposition of materials react on a micro/macro level as the alchemical correlations of copper alloy and photographic silver become apparent.
Relationships to outmoded analog and modernist practices are clear in such pairings, yet the antiquated quality of Pearson's work is countered by highly abstracted, acrylic mounted photographs which employ a digital flaw known as artifacting. These large-scale works utilize a variety of other conflicting and idiosyncratic devices as well in their realization: surface reflection as a means of image obstruction, lens flare and over-exposure. Yet this litany of photographic and presentation "flaws" is resolved in the final meditative and serene appearance of the resultant work. The acrylic surface of the pictures provides an obstruction of detail, meanwhile imbuing them with a luminous glow.
Pearson rejects the use of editions, creating volumes of unique, discreet works that rely heavily upon object presence. The use of frontal sculpture intersecting, obscuring and complementing the photographs offers a fluidity that underlines the transitory and open-ended quality of the artist's work.
In the pairing of these two artists, William J. O'Brien's more intuitive approach of using found objects and everyday materials contrasts with Anthony Pearson's more precise and fabricated methods. Yet a kindred interest in materiality and formalism can be found as the artists span the range from Minimalism to Expressionism in their prolific practices.
William J. O'Brien lives and works in Chicago. He received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005. The artist was included in the recent exhibition, Makers and Modelers at Barbara Gladstone Gallery and had his first solo show at Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago in September.
Anthony Pearson is a Los Angeles-based artist who received his MFA from UCLA in 1999. Pearson recently had a solo show at Shane Campbell Gallery in Chicago, and will have a solo exhibition at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles in December 2007. He will also have a solo exhibition at Midway Contemporary Art in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2008.