Robyn O’Neil: WE, THE MASSES
On view through February 9, 2020
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Fort Worth, Texas
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth presents a 20-year survey of the work of Robyn O’Neil (American, born 1977). Organized by the Modern’s associate curator Alison Hearst, the exhibition “Robyn O’Neil: WE, THE MASSES” explores the artist’s fruitful career from 2000 to the present and includes major multipaneled drawings, signature works of graphite on paper, collages, and the animated film WE, THE MASSES, 2011. This in-depth presentation is the first to examine O’Neil’s formal and conceptual developments over the past two decades.
O’Neil has created intricate, imagined worlds exploring themes of evolution, natural catastrophe, the apocalypse, and the beauty of nature. She is best known for her large-scale works populated with tiny male figures set in harsh landscapes, depicting relatable aspects of the human condition, such as friendship, strife, and death. Pulling inspiration from art history, popular culture, literature, and the weather, O’Neil’s worlds are serious, tender, frightening, and at times comical. Hearst comments, “O’Neil’s lush drawings explore cataclysmic scenarios and existential aspects of life – in both good times and bad. In her realms, the male characters witness the natural world’s unraveling, often resorting to savage, every-man-for-himself behaviors. Her characters are small within vast landscapes where beauty and nature always prevail.” Highly detailed and precise, O’Neil’s graphite-on-paper drawings are made with a .5 mm mechanical pencil and a blending stump her mother gave her when she was in the seventh grade. More recently, the artist has been exploring color in her drawings with the use of colored pencils and oil pastels.
Image credits: Robyn O’Neil, An Unkindness, 2019. Graphite, colored pencil, and acrylic on paper. Left and right panels, 75 3/8 x 41 ½ inches; center panel, 75 3/8 x 75 3/8 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC. Photographer: Heather Rasmussen, Los Angeles