Taka Ishii Gallery is pleased to present “water sounds,” a solo exhibition of works by William J. O’Brien, from April 26th to May 17th. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1975 and currently based in Chicago, O’Brien has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2014); The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City (2012); and The Renaissance Society, Chicago (2011).


O’Brien is best known for his ceramic sculptures. However, he begins making his sculptures by drawing. The colorful geometric patterns in his drawings are made through a process similar to Surrealist automatic writing techniques and evoke various U.S. visual cultures such as those related to psychedelia, op art, abstract expressionist painting, and architecture. The playful ceramic works, which are adorned with bright glazes, refer to a broad range of cultural elements such as ancient artifacts and face jugs, which were produced in the American South prior to the Civil War. O’Brien’s works incorporate historically varied cultural elements, such as ethnography, traditional crafts, poetry, pop and psychedelic cultures, and gay minimalism.


O’Brien is shockingly well-versed in many traditional media (paper, clay, wood, fabric, and metal), and his works include sculptures, drawings, paintings, collage, video, and tapestries. Ignoring self-imposed constraints, he utilizes a plethora of materials and ideas by cutting apart and combining them through an intuitive and improvisational process that generates new ideas while simultaneously refuting existing modes of academic and logical categorization. As O’Brien has explained, he is “interested in the point where ugliness and failure can become attractive.” His works are filled with a strength that transcends all existing framework


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