Robyn O’Neil’s fourth exhibition with the Gallery marks a departure in process, a deconstruction of the visual and material, and an aesthetic genesis for the artist. Named for “an unkindness,” the term used to reference a flock of ravens, the exhibition impresses upon the viewer a sense of foreboding and threat that is reinforced by the centerpiece triptych, An Unkindness. The ominous, swirling unkindness in the middle panel of the triptych and the pack of wolves, jaws wide in preparation for attack, in the adjacent, confer a theme that has become central to O’Neil’s oeuvre: life on Earth is arduous and fraught with challenge. The collage drawings, A Lot of Things Contributed and The Nemesis Hypothesis, further embody these sentiments in their monochromatic and haphazard construction. A reprieve is found in the heavenly scene of the right panel of the triptych. Reminiscent of the pastel Impressionist paintings of Claude Monet and Georges Seurat, the ethereal landscape is a paradoxical bookend, one that offers hope and optimism, to austere darkness.
Underlining An Unkindness is the sense of eruptive evolution, as the works featured in the exhibition showcase Robyn O’Neil’s plunge into a new phase of artistic process and development. Well-known for her monochromatic, black-and-white, all-graphite drawings, the artist injects a rare dose of color through the use of colored pencils, oil pastels and acrylic paint. Once cautious with the handling of her drawings, she has sadistically poured boiling water on the paper, scraped it with sandpaper, and written on and sliced the drawings with razor blades. These experiments in deconstruction result in a newfound technical precariousness and a palpable emotionality in which the works oscillate between the tool and the paper, the dark and the light, and the monochromatic and the colorful.
Robyn O’Neil lives and works in Los Angeles, California. She will be honored with a major solo exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth opening October of this year. O’Neil has previously had solo museum exhibitions with the Des Moines Art Center; the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem. She has been included in the Whitney Biennial and in exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; the Kemper Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and “Dargerism" at The American Folk Art Museum. Her work can be found in the collections of the Dallas Museum of Art; the Menil Drawing Institute; Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art among others. Additionally, Robyn O’Neil hosts one of the highest-rated poetry & literature podcasts, “ME READING STUFF.”