John J. O'Connor, Schemes Out

by Gregory Montreuil

John J. O'Connor
False Memory 1, 2001, above,
and Head Itch, below, show how O'Connor graphically depicts systems and actions.

In this mind-bending, conceptually generated show of ten large-scale drawings, disparate subjects are juxtaposed in surprising ways. O'Connor, inventing comparisons and systems of relationship, mixes the scientific with the absurd. Executed in graphite and colored pencil with a multitude of notations, these works create a kind of brainy hopscotch. Puzzling juxtapositions abound, with results that are original and surprising through these investigations of obtuse relationships. Chance is incorporated and honored, as O'Connor draws from the tradition of the Dadaists, Duchamp and others. The implication holds the absurd as a relevant option, giving the pieces in the show a nihilist edge. By offering another point of view through his pseudoscientific approach, Mr. O'Connor challenges the construct of reality.

The inner workings of the mind and the external environment are often bridged by the drawings through their systematic sensory notation. Each drawing is used to illustrate a specific idea or relationship and have titles like Head Itch, False Memory, and Scratch. The titles give clues to the visually quirky and accomplished drawings. Each work on paper comes with an accompanying text that explains the origin of the ideas that are "graphically represented."

To URLUsing eccentric and arcane postulates, Recession (2002) explores hair loss. “The subject of this drawing is the patterns, consequences and irony of hair loss,” according to the artist's written explanation. “It is something that affects me personally.” The resulting drawing is a strange schematic of lines that form a spaghetti-like, arched wig shape. Otherworldly and faceless, the image is original and haunting.

False Memory 1 (2001) is more psychedelic in feel. Dense and interwoven, it has beautiful passages of shading and a multitude of numerical notations. CWST (2002) explores body temperature and calories burned. Another piece is an elaborate system to record itching and the conditions surrounding its occurrence.

Ebbinghaus Map (2002) uses the theories of a German scientist about memory and its predictable rate of disappearance. O'Connor then invents an elaborate system to test himself and the theory by recreating a shape over and over with his eyes closed. The artist tests his memory and ability with the resulting drawing acting as a record of his fading memory.

To URLEarthquakes and Wars (2002) compare the two named occurrences within the confines of the United States and a specific time period. The resulting rendering is a kind of warped rainbow flow chart with meticulously noted times and dates and correspondence between these differing and violent events. Several of the drawings are covered with notations like measles, giving them an obsessive quality. The blank spaces left around the perimeter of most of these pieces give some visual relief to these dense works. Some drawings share a visual kinship with Jonathan Lasker's work

Internal mapping, scientific inquiry and its unpredictable conclusions inform this eccentric exhibition .The pseudoscientific mixes with the absurd to form complex thoughts represented through images. The impetuses come from O'Connor's curious mind; from earthquakes to obesity genes to temperature prediction, ideas are processed through intricately layered systems with the resulting drawings acting as graphic representations of the ideas. The drawings act as a form of internal cartography. Inventing comparisons and systems of relationship, these works display a deep trust in the futile. This exhibition shows an artist involved in challenging himself and his viewers by creating ways to set into motion the wonder of discovery and possibility.

Gregory Montreuil is a writer and artist living and working in New York City P.O. Box 580, New York, NY 10113 ©2002