John O’Connor at Pierogi

What is Toronto???
Gallery 1+2
13 May – 19 June, 2011
Opening Reception Friday, 13 May 7-9 pm

Press Release

Pierogi is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by John O’Connor. This exhibition will include small to large-scale drawings, collages, and sculpture. O’Connor continues to develop his drawings through idiosyncratic systems, making visual what is ordinarily invisible. He begins each drawing with a subject of interest and through haphazard research collects data and begins to experiment with it. He completes one part of the drawing, responds to what he’s put down in a Rube Goldbergian way, and continues until the drawing is complete. Chance is an important element of the process, eliminating a purely aesthetic and personal approach. The constantly evolving systems that O’Connor devises to construct the works exist alongside the final image so that his process becomes a visual element of the work; the concept of the drawing and its formal elements are represented simultaneously.

“Raymond Queneau, cofounder of Oulipo, once described the cult writer Raymond Roussel, renowned for his perplexing compositional methods, as one who ‘joins the mathematician’s delirium to the poet’s logic.’ I could say the same about John O’Connor. It’s as if Roussel, channeled by O’Connor, had discovered the Internet and decided to make illuminated pages from his findings.” (Bruce Pearson, Bomb Magazine)

O’Connor develops his new works through a circular, or looping, process of one thing leading to another, and back to the beginning. His most recent and largest drawing, “Drug Loop,” reveals the circular effect of popular medications and their side effects. He begins at the top with “headache” and takes as solution, Bayer Aspirin. He then randomly selects from among listed side effects, chooses a new medication to treat the side effect, and so on around a central circular shape-from “no sex drive” to “hyperactivity,” “anxiety,” and, finally, “agitation.” In the center of the circular shape, O’Connor overlaps drawings of a healthy brain scan and an unhealthy one showing signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. He treats the drawings as things growing organically, like fractals; a naturally multiplying system moving outward toward the symptoms and medicines.

Another drawing, “Turing Test,” is named after British mathematician and early computer scientist, Alan Turing, who developed an experiment to test whether or not a human could tell if they were interacting with another human or a computer. O’Connor attempted to reverse Turing’s test to determine a human’s capacity to act like a machine. The title of this exhibition is a nod to Turing’s computer test. “What Is Toronto???” was the computer Watson’s only incorrect response throughout its Jeopardy appearance.

For some of the smaller collage works, such as “Nac,” O’Connor took damp wadded newspaper he found on the ground and used the dimensions of the paper as numbers which he then translated to letters in order to generate the language. About this process he says, “I’m interested in the real specifics of an abstract form. The way that some specific type of information can be translated into an equally specific shape. Or the reverse, the shape, made by chance, has a very real shape to it, which leads to it’s own individual language.” (O’Connor, 2011)

O’Connor received his MFA from Pratt Institute and studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. This will be his fourth one-person exhibition at Pierogi.