Magazine article Artforum International

John O'Connor: Pierogi

Magazine article Artforum International

John O'Connor: Pierogi

Article excerpt

John O'Connor


John O'Connor revels in schematic mutation. Ceding varying degrees of aesthetic agency to programmatic procedures that give visual and linguistic form to statistics, sociocultural phenomena, and chance operations, he is best known for large, labor-intensive, colored-pencil-and-graphite drawings that creep and sprawl across their supports in accordance with eccentric, self-imposed directives. Pertinent examples include A Recurrence Plot, 2013, in which economic data and markers of social stratification are gaudily plotted onto a cross-sectional chart of planet Earth's geologic layers, and Cleverbot I, 2012, a brightly color-coded, handwrought block-letter transcription of conversations between the artist and a piece of machine-learning-based artificial-intelligence software that devolve into comical exchanges about manners and aggressive behavior.


For this show, his sixth at Pierogi--a onetime mainstay of the Williamsburg gallery scene, now located on the Lower East Side--O'Connor drilled deeper into familiar mock-diagrammatic territory, while expanding on a relatively new set of more straightforwardly narrational concerns. Upon entering the gallery's scene-setting antechamber-cum-window display, the viewer was confronted by a classic O'Connor, Noahbot, 2014, a jazzy, bodily scaled extrapolation on poetically conceived precepts. Vibrant clusters of coarsely limned words--more excerpts from chatbot conversations--sit atop radiating circular forms composed of hard-edge black-and-white stripes, optically pulsing like a cartoon explosion. But on rounding the corner into the main, generously proportioned space, one encountered a broad repertoire of formats and methodologies. The walls were cheerfully segmented by wide blocks of floor-to-ceiling color alternating with expanses of white, each section containing and projecting variously sized exhibits to seductive, Popist effect.

Once perceptually assimilated, the dazzle separated into two distinct strains of work: diverse experiments in rule-bound abstraction--each an intriguing universe unto itself--and a series of darkly comedic tales delivered via strings of multicolored words rendered in homemade or culturally freighted fonts and punctuated by carefully drawn logos, hieroglyphs, pictograms, and emojis. …

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