Cotton twine, yarn, felt, metal, wood, ceramic flowers
108.3 x 91.4 x 39.4 (cm)
42.6 x 36.0 x 15.5 (inch)William J. O’Brien explores the potential of a diverse range of media including paper, clay, textile, ceramic, steel, found
sculptures by drawing. The colorful geometric patterns in his drawings are made through a process similar to Surrealist automatic writing techniques and evoke various U.S. visual cultures such as those related to psychedelia, op art, abstract expressionist painting, and architecture. The playful ceramic works, which are adorned with bright glazes, refer to a broad range of cultural elements such as ethnography, traditional crafts, poetry, pop and psychedelic cultures, and gay minimalism.For several years I have been earnestly investigating what my relationship with painting could be and how it would look by considering the history of artists before me who also have considered the influences of queer identity, counterculture aesthetics, and a respect and reverence for craft and art history. As a young queer kid growing up in rural Ohio, I was surrounded by traditional crafts such as quilting and crocheting. During these formative years, I was raised in a religious household and found refuge in music. My early music influences were Punk, Goth, Industrial and New Wave types of music. I see my art pieces as being a reflection of my own body, a living quilt painting. I also feel my pieces intentionally refer to the AIDS quilt, the felt works of Robert Morris as well as Ikebana arrangements.
"The influences for this body of work were primarily drawn from the images of early Americana craft objects from the masts of boats, Lucio Fontana’s Art Povera Psychedelic Crucifix Ceramics, and Louise bourgeois’s figurative fabric body sculptures. Prior to the installation of Shame Spiral at Atlanta Contemporary I was considering the necessity of the gallery being one of refuge and sanctuary. This sculpture was exhibited as a series of wall works that were a parody of stations of the cross but using my own body and my lovers in repose as subject matter. Overall the intention of this sculptural work was to display a true reflection of our time. Showing beauty with ugliness, gentleness with violence, sophistication with the abject."
William J. O’Brien (Eastlake, Ohio, 1975) is an artist who currently lives and works in Chicago. He received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2005). His major solo exhibitions include Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (2018), KMAC Museum, Louisville (2017), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2014), The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City (2012) and the Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago (2011). O’Brien has received awards from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation (2011), and Artadia: The Fund for Art & Dialogue (2007). His work is included in the permanent collections of the Cleveland Clinic; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Miami Art Museum; and The Art Institute of Chicago.