Kevin O'Connell : Memories of Water
Sep 18 – Nov 1, 2014
In his fourth, solo Robischon Gallery exhibition, highly-regarded artist Kevin O’Connell creates large and small-scale photographs in his new “Memories of Water” series. Intended to convey an essential visual journey from the high and arid open plains of Colorado to the vast shoreline of the Pacific Northwest coast, O’Connell’s reference began with the topics of drought and land use. As the photographic series evolved, the artist followed a more poetic path – the search for water became a kind of metaphor for a search for meaning. Capturing compelling images of water, as reflections of a timeless quest, O’Connell expresses a contemplative, deeply personal connection while presenting a universal concern: the growing scarcity of water. Long-recognized for his spare and quiet vistas of the eastern plains of Colorado and distinctive portraits of energy structures in those same open places, O’Connell’s sensitive considerations not only illustrate the potentially dire water issues of the West, but also exalt in the pure beauty of the surrounding land.
Poignantly moved by the vastness of the open plains as in earlier series, O’Connell notes the similarity of feeling invoked by miles of unpopulated grassland and the limitless expanse of ocean waters. The artist visually unites these seemingly disparate worlds though the continuity of the horizon and the knowledge that the open plains used to exist as the great Western Interior Seaway. The vanishing of the great inland sea acknowledges the cyclical nature of the land over time and suggests a similar condition in humanity’s trajectory – one which is also intrinsically bound to the presence of water. To creatively convey the layered complexity of his subject, O’Connell’s “Memories of Water” series resides firmly in the poetic. Substantially due to the artists own vocabulary and his desire to communicate a kind of immeasurable quietude, his collaboration with New York poet Jules Gibbs played a role in his stance. Author of Bliss Crisis and Bulk of the Mailable Universe, Gibbs offered her poetic insights and upon seeing the artist’s images, provided the elegiac titles to further anchor meaning within O’Connell’s sweeping imagery. In his own words, O’Connell writes, “When on the plains, it is difficult to look down – one’s eyes tend to focus on the horizon, as if it is the only thing defining you and your place in the world. The experience must be similar to being on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Time passes slowly, then suddenly punctuated by only the changes in the atmosphere and the amount of dust or salt spray on your neck. You move, yet everything seems to remain the same.”
Kevin O’Connell is a graduate of Purdue University and the University of Denver. His work is included in the permanent collections of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Denver Art Museum, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris, Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brigham Young University Museum of Art and Ross Art Museum and Wesleyan University in addition to many corporate and private collections. He has twice been a Ucross Fellowship recipient and his work is frequently shown including exhibitions at the Aspen Art Museum, Nicolaysen Art Museum, Wyoming, Arvada Center and in both solo and group shows at Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver.