ROBYN O'NEIL: WE, THE MASSES at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Closing Date18 November 2019
In conjunction with Robyn O'Neil's twenty-year survey, WE, THE MASSES, at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Gallery presents a closer look at a selection of works in the exhibition.
During her final years of art school, O’Neil shifted away from painting and began to create the monumental work on paper which came to define her. Inspired by her father and his friends, she imagined a world of middle-aged, suburban men engaging in leisurely outdoor activities, such as calisthenics and skiing. A palpable darkness quickly developed in these early works, scenarios at once tragic and comic. O’Neil’s epic narrative continued over the course of 200 drawings, always hurtling towards an inevitable end in a world without women or hope for future generations.
Following an interlude of drawings featuring barren, post-apocalyptic landscapes, O’Neil brought her world of men to its obvious conclusion in the expansive triptych, HELL (2011). Her most ambitious drawing to date, HELL took the artist three years to complete and includes 35,000 collaged elements and 65,000 figures each with the recognizable features of known protagonists. Such multi-paneled works look to art-historical examples, such as Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490–1510), which also includes a dense composition of crowds engaged in a variety of activities devolving into a nightmarish, hell-like scenario. Like Bosch and other art-historical precedents referencing hell, O’Neil’s work depicts the worst aspects of human behavior, murder and mayhem, and imparts a tale of morality. In format and narrative qualities, O’Neil’s triptychs also conjure religious, pre-Renaissance altarpieces, a source of inspiration which reflects the artist’s Catholic upbringing.
HELL and WE, THE MASSES will be on view at the Modern through 09 February 2020.
Installation photographs by Kevin Todora. Courtesy of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.