Robyn O’Neil creates epic images that are preoccupied with the spiritual and moral questions of her time. Populated by her twenty-first-century everyman, middle-aged men in tracksuits, her works have become known for their penetrating metaphorical exploration of such themes as the apocalypse, evolution, and extinction. Landscape and Mother Nature serve together as the great equalizer, putting all of O’Neil’s men on equal footing.
This exhibition presents a selection of drawings from 2004–05. In these works, O’Neil’s threatened wildlife and men are joined by five owls who represent the artist’s innermost family circle. Large, complex multipanel works reminiscent of Renaissance altarpieces lay out a range of life’s complexities for us to ponder. Smaller works allow us to delve deeper into more particular realms. Brutality mingles with mercy, presumption with isolation, magnificence with terror, hope with despair. These are drawings to lose oneself in. Carefully and painstakingly, O’Neil harnesses the core questions that confront humanity and renders them in all of their richness and nuance using that humblest of servants, a simple pencil.
Robyn O’Neil was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1977 and lives and works in Houston. This exhibition was organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.