Robyn O'Neil: IN PIECES ON FIRE

12 September - 31 October 2020

Robyn O’Neil’s (b. 1977, Omaha, NE) prodigious career places her in the company of some of the great landscape artists in the history of art. Known for her detailed narrative drawings that often contain art historical references, her drawings in dry media range from intimate landscapes to large-scale, multi-panel works. Often surreal or symbolic, her drawings reference personal narratives and art historical allusions, and deal with themes of memory, identity and climate crises.

  • The works in this exhibition look upward, and each comes from O’Neil’s ongoing Cloudmakers series, begun in 2018. Two large drawings included in her career-spanning retrospective at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2019) anchor the show, and the remaining intimately scaled works were produced since then. But O’Neil’s cloud obsession can be traced to her youth: a self-avowed “weather obsessive,” she grew up in tornado alley in Nebraska and Texas and was a volunteer weather watcher. O’Neil’s interest in clouds and weather form the basis of these pieces.

  • Kupferstichkabinett/Houston, TX (detail)
  • "I wanted to create a storm of sorts out of my ‘collection’ of clouds from art history, literature, poetry, TV shows, movies, etc. It’s also the first time I’ve ever felt the freedom to directly reference artists I love in my work. Those heroes were always hidden in my early work, and I now cherish the freedom I feel to nod to the artists who make me wild with excitement." – Robyn O'Neil

  • Robyn O’Neil Kupferstichkabinett/Houston, TX, 2020 graphite, watercolor, colored pencil 12 1/2 x 18 3/8 in (31.8 x 46.7 cm) 17...

    Robyn O’Neil

    Kupferstichkabinett/Houston, TX, 2020

    graphite, watercolor, colored pencil

    12 1/2 x 18 3/8 in  (31.8 x 46.7 cm)

    17 5/8 x 23 1/2 x 1 1/2 in  (44.8 x 59.7 x 3.8 cm) framed

    RON 172

    SOLD

  • O’Neil presents four Texas-art-themed works in the exhibition. Kupfertischkabinett/Houston, Texas contains shapes and clouds drawn from works in the Menil Collection by artists such as Rene Magritte, Nancy Spero and Joan Miro. The cloud shapes in May in Matagorda, Texas and in Unknown American are sourced from works at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Clouds at Edwards Plateau… is loosely Texas-inspired; O’Neil states this work “is about the day I left Texas for the west coast. Something important for me. But one of the main things I didn’t want to leave behind were those Texas skies.”

  • Robyn O’Neil Clouds at Edwards Plateau the day I left Texas, May 2011, 2018-2020 graphite, colored pencil 9 3/4 x...

    Robyn O’Neil

    Clouds at Edwards Plateau the day I left Texas, May 2011, 2018-2020

    graphite, colored pencil

    9 3/4 x 12 in  (24.8 x 30.5 cm)

    13 5/8 x 17 1/8 x 1 1/2 in  (34.6 x 43.5 x 3.8 cm) framed

    RON 179

    $4,300

  • Robyn O’Neil Unknown American, 2020 graphite, colored pencil, watercolor 12 1/2 x 18 1/4 in (31.8 x 46.4 cm) 17...

    Robyn O’Neil

    Unknown American, 2020

    graphite, colored pencil, watercolor

    12  1/2 x 18 1/4 in  (31.8 x 46.4 cm)

    17 5/8 x 23 1/2 x 1 1/2 in  (44.8 x 59.7 x 3.8 cm) framed

    RON 178

    SOLD

  • Most of the small drawings were made during quarantine while O’Neil was unable to source her usual art supplies, and...

    Most of the small drawings were made during quarantine while O’Neil was unable to source her usual art supplies, and the resulting works contain colors and papers that the artist does not normally use. Scraps of recycled drawings reappear as collage elements. O’Neil says, “the papers used in these small drawings all have histories of their own. Which is why you also see that some of the dates on these drawings started years ago.”

     

    Clouds at Edwards Plateau the day I left Texas, 2020

    (verso)

  • Robyn O’Neil Hand of God, 2020 watercolor, graphite, colored pencil 12 1/2 x 18 1/2 in (31.8 x 47 cm)...

    Robyn O’Neil

    Hand of God, 2020

    watercolor, graphite, colored pencil

    12 1/2 x 18 1/2 in  (31.8 x 47 cm)

    17 5/8 x 23 1/2 x 1 1/2 in  (44.8 x 59.7 x 3.8 cm) framed

    RON 177

    SOLD

  • Robyn O’Neil Bobby's Matchstick, 2018-2020 graphite, watercolor, colored pencil 7 3/4 x 20 1/2 in (19.7 x 52.1 cm) 13...

    Robyn O’Neil

    Bobby's Matchstick, 2018-2020

    graphite, watercolor, colored pencil

    7 3/4 x 20 1/2 in  (19.7 x 52.1 cm)

    13 x 25 3/8 x 1 1/2 in  (33 x 64.5 x 3.8 cm) framed

    RON 176

    $5,600

  • Robyn O’Neil War and Hospitals, 2020 graphite 12 5/8 x 18 1/2 in (32.1 x 47 cm) 17 5/8 x...

    Robyn O’Neil

    War and Hospitals, 2020

    graphite

    12 5/8 x 18 1/2 in  (32.1 x 47 cm)

    17 5/8 x 23 1/2 x 1 1/2 in  (44.8 x 59.7 x 3.8 cm) framed

    RON 175

    $6,200

  • Robyn O’Neil The Dissolution Documents: Air Quality Unhealthy, 2018 Graphite, colored pencil and watercolor on paper 50 x 90 in...

    Robyn O’Neil

    The Dissolution Documents: Air Quality Unhealthy, 2018

    Graphite, colored pencil and watercolor on paper

    50 x 90 in  (127 x 228.6 cm)

    54 x 94 in  (137.2 x 238.8 cm) Framed

    RON 161

    $40,000

     

    One of the large drawings, The Dissolution Documents: Air Quality Unhealthy, depicts a cloud shape found in one of William Blake's illustrations for Dante’s The Divine Comedy. O’Neil produced The Dissolution Documents… while she was living through the threat of wildfires that were raging through Southern California, where the artist was based, in 2018. That period was a precursor to her recent pandemic isolation, and during both she has used the time to explore new, violent techniques of production. For example, The Dissolution Documents… is made from paper that she purposefully destroyed using Exacto knife blades and sandpaper to create a rough texture. She also placed some sheets in tubs of boiling water after drawing on them. These intentional acts of destruction were liberating for O’Neil, allowing her to approach the most recent works with a newfound perspective on her artistic practice.

  • Robyn O’Neil The Black Sea's Undersong, 2013 Collage, oil pastel and graphite on paper 50 1/2 x 89 1/2 in...

    Robyn O’Neil

    The Black Sea's Undersong, 2013

    Collage, oil pastel and graphite on paper

    50 1/2 x 89 1/2 in  (128.3 x 227.3 cm)

    54 x 92 3/4 in  (137.2 x 235.6 cm) framed

    RON 158

    $40,000

     

    "Black Sea’s Undersong is the earliest work in IN PIECES ON FIRE, and presages the rest of the exhibition. When coming upon this piece in O’Neil’s 20 year retrospective at the Fort Worth Modern, I was stopped in my tracks – although I knew Robyn’s work well, it was Black Sea’s Undersong that helped me understand the place that historical landscape paintings played in her work. Black Sea’s Undersong is an epic American landscape, with nods to Albert Bierstadt, Caspar David Friedrich and JMW Turner."

    – Kerry Inman

  • Kerry Inman and Robyn O’Neil discuss “Black Sea’s Undersong”

  • Return to Inman Gallery