PHILIP - RENÉ - DOE, AND OTHER PAPER MONTAGES, 2016-2018
John O’Reilly’s Paper Montages are a body of work made from materials such as art historical images, children’s drawings, found photographs, gay pornography, folios of art reproductions and his own cut and pasted paper. The artist is known primarily as a photographer who works in collage. For nearly fifty years, he has taken photographs, either with an old polaroid or an inexpensive 35mm camera and combined them with appropriated material, working with scissors and glue, to create intricate and complex images. However, in this most recent body of work, the artist dispenses with the camera entirely, and works solely with his personal image archive, amassed from flea market finds and other rummaged material. The results appear more simplified; this process powerfully distills the ideas and themes that have preoccupied the artist throughout his long career.
The works in the current exhibition, like his previous work, often focus on the male body. In them, figures are manipulated and scale is disrupted. The artist presents odd conjunctions of body parts and inserts sexually explicit images, often creating alien mismatchings. What is new in this recent work is the incorporation of children’s drawings. This new element creates a meditation on mortality and a connection to his childhood growing up gay in a strict Catholic household in New Jersey.