September 12 - October 31, 2020
From the gallery:
“Inman Gallery is pleased to present two concurrent exhibitions to celebrate the gallery’s 30th anniversary: IN PIECES ON FIRE by Robyn O’Neil and Our world swells like dawn, when the sun licks the water by Angela Fraleigh. The exhibitions present new bodies of work by each artist. On view beginning Saturday, September 12, they will continue by appointment through Saturday, October 31, 2020. In lieu of a public opening, there will be public programs via Zoom scheduled throughout the run of the exhibitions and interested visitors may make appointments to view the shows in person.
Robyn O’Neil’s prodigious career places her in the company of some of the great landscape artists in the history of art. Known for her detailed narrative drawings that often contain art historical references, her drawings in dry media range from intimate landscapes to large-scale, multi-panel works. Often surreal or symbolic, her drawings reference personal narratives and art historical allusions, and deal with themes of memory, identity and climate crises.
The works in this exhibition look upward, and each comes from O’Neil’s ongoing Cloudmakers series, begun in 2018. Two large drawings included in her career-spanning retrospective at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2019) anchor the show, and the remaining intimately scaled works were produced since then. But O’Neil’s cloud obsession can be traced to her youth: a self-avowed “weather obsessive,” she grew up in tornado alley in Nebraska and Texas and was a volunteer weather watcher. O’Neil’s interest in clouds and weather form the basis of these pieces. She recalls: I wanted to create a storm of sorts out of my ‘collection’ of clouds from art history, literature, poetry, TV shows, movies, etc. It’s also the first time I’ve ever felt the freedom to directly reference artists I love in my work. Those heroes were always hidden in my early work, and I now cherish the freedom I feel to nod to the artists who make me wild with excitement.”
Most of the small drawings were made during quarantine while O’Neil was unable to source her usual art supplies, and the resulting works contain colors and papers that the artist does not normally use. Scraps of recycled drawings reappear as collage elements. O’Neil says, “the papers used in these small drawings all have histories of their own. Which is why you also see that some of the dates on these drawings started years ago.”
O’Neil presents four Texas-art-themed works in the exhibition. Kupfertischkabinett/Houston, Texas contains shapes and clouds drawn from works in the Menil Collection by artists such as Rene Magritte, Nancy Spero and Joan Miro. The cloud shapes in May in Matagorda, Texas and in Unknown American are sourced from works at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Clouds at Edwards Plateau… is loosely Texas-inspired; O’Neil states this work “is about the day I left Texas for the west coast. Something important for me. But one of the main things I didn’t want to leave behind were those Texas skies.”
One of the large drawings, The Dissolution Documents: Air Quality Unhealthy, depicts a cloud shape found in one of William Blake’s illustrations for Dante’s The Divine Comedy. O’Neil produced The Dissolution Documents… while she was living through the threat of wildfires that were raging through Southern California, where the artist was based, in 2018. That period was a precursor to her used the time to explore new, violent techniques of production. For example, The Dissolution Documents… is made from paper that she purposefully destroyed using Exacto knife blades and sandpaper to create a rough texture. She also placed some sheets in tubs of boiling water after drawing on them. These intentional acts of destruction were liberating for O’Neil, allowing her to approach the most recent works with a newfound perspective on her artistic practice.”
Artist talk: October 3, 2020 | 1–2 pm
Angela Fraleigh and Robyn O'Neil with Kerry Inman
Artist talk: October 10, 2020 | 1–2 pm
Alison Hearst and Robyn O'Neil in conversation
3901 Main Street
Houston, 77002 TX
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