Magazine article Artforum International

Morgan O'Hara: Mitchell Algus Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Morgan O'Hara: Mitchell Algus Gallery

Article excerpt

Across the past three decades, Morgan O'Hara has produced more than five thousand examples of what she calls her Live Transmission works, a strand of her practice situated between performance and drawing. These renderings are the product of a process whereby O'Hara "records" movement--of musicians, orators, actors, and fellow artists; of workers of all sorts, from gardeners to bakers to stonemasons; of bees and carp and turtles--in real time with only pencils and paper, tools that function for the septuagenarian artist as a mediumistic interface between herself and the world of space and motion around her. Portraits not just of entities but also of places and temporalities the artist draws in a unique sort of physical and emotional communion with her subjects, O'Hara's diagrams--more than a hundred of which were on view in this revelatory exhibition--represent a novel interaction between a spectator and her surroundings that makes movement and presence visible in a manner that's at once frankly descriptive and profoundly personal.

The show, the first exhibition of O'Hara's Live Transmission works in New York in two decades, was hung salon style, covering the walls of Mitchell Algus's modest second-floor Delancey Street space. The works' basic form was, on the surface, highly consistent: a piece of white paper (or, in a few cases, canvas) filled to a greater or lesser degree with the artist's vaguely seismographic inscriptions, then titled in small script along its bottom edge with plainspoken information listing the subject, activity, place, and date of the event recorded. Yet despite their general compositional constancy, the various categories into which the works were divided had their own particular moods and methodologies, the works within them demonstrating a diversity of response to the stimuli with which O'Hara engaged.

The artists she recorded include a spectrum of major figures: Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Vito Acconci, Hermann Nitsch, Jonas Mekas, Nam June Paik. Movement of the hands of DICK HIGGINS reading his poetry and performing at the piano with garden gloves / Fluxus Festival/ Anthology Film Archive /New York City /30 October 1994 is beautifully suggestive of the two discrete moments of the Fluxus pioneer's performance, featuring a small cell of relatively circumscribed gestures describing the reading set alongside a rambunctious thicket of horizontal lines depicting him at the keyboard. …

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