May 15, 2011

William J. O'Brien Artist Talk with Hamza Walker

Chicago artist William J. O’Brien (b.1975) works in multiple mediums, including ceramic, textiles, wood, and metal, along with works on paper. His corpus reflects a playful attention to the expected properties of each material, and a subsequent subversion of their ordinary uses. This will be his first museum solo exhibition, and will include approximately 100 ceramic works, many of them never before exhibited.

O’Brien’s increasingly inventive sculpture work displays a messy exuberance that is, on one hand, distinctly anti-Minimalist in its sensibility. On the other hand, his work resists the sentimentality in the recent revival of “the handmade,” even while using materials, like ceramic or yarn, that are almost synonymous with old notions of craft. While no material appears to be off limits for O’Brien, an important uniting tie is a certain attitude toward the role of the pedestal—the pedestal is not a vehicle for display, but is integral to each work.

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