Prompted by our collective expertise of pandemic-induced concern, nervousness, and uncertainty, Robyn O’Neil determined to revisit probably the most torturous interval of her life—the three years she spent making the fourteen-foot-long drawing HELL, 2011. Greater than a decade after its completion, the artist seems to be again at this seminal and extremely darkish piece from a spot of lightness and repose in “HELL and the Paradisal,” her solo exhibition right here, which additionally options her new ongoing collection, “The Paradise Fields” 2021–, and different associated works.
O’Neil’s monstrous triptych anchors a whole gallery and capabilities because the apex of her early multipart landscapes, suffering from the artist’s signature everymen, from the 2000s. In HELL, sixty-five thousand of her troublesome figures, clothed in black sweat fits and white trainers, battle one another throughout an array of violent, apocalyptic vignettes. A lot of her topics are piled into heaps, or fused collectively like suspended strands of steel filings. Making this work was punishing: After rendering thirty-five thousand graphite kinds that counsel fir timber or the backs of robed males, she individually reduce out and collaged them right into a towering monolith, a construction that remembers the crowded, spiraling edifice of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Tower of Babel, 1563. Certainly, HELL is sinister, torturous, unflinching.
The newer works, nevertheless—calm, intimate, even redemptive—strike a markedly totally different word. The grounds in these items are not vibrant white as they’re created on unprimed canvas and papers with hotter tones, giving the pictures a extra textured, ocherous high quality. In these footage, people are absent and nature reigns supreme. Three canvases from “The Paradise Fields” function a dominant vertical ingredient that constructions every composition—a treelike backbone, a winding river, and a community of arteries. Interspersed between these kinds are invented bits of wildlife, unmoored symbols and objects floating freely in house. Quiet however electrical, O’Neil’s serene landscapes counsel progress and promise.