John J. O’Connor’s Continuous Loop


SUSEJ, 2011, Colored pencil on graph paper, 43 inches x 25 inches, Courtesy of Pierogi, NY

JOHN J. O’CONNOR: What Is Toronto???
Now-June 12, 2011
177 North 9th Street
11am – 6pm Tuesday through Sunday

In John J. O’Connor’s words, his fourth solo exhibition at Pierogi reflects “more diversity of ideas and even styles” than ever before. This makes for an eclectic sampling and together, the works convincingly illustrate the artist’s ambition “to arrive at an abstract form that is completely nonrepresentational, but very specifically ‘about’ something.”

Working in collage, drawing, and for the first time, sculpture, O’Connor focuses on the visualization of complex subtexts–the deep undercurrents between ideas and concepts that usually remain invisible. His compositions “move between pure abstraction and pattern” and they often incorporate snippets of language. The results are dense visual tapestries that evoke conglomerates of data and idiosyncratic systems or codes. Information is transmitted through color and form, whose rhythms weave together the content of each piece, but also connect the group of works as a whole.

“Almost all of the larger works have some conceptual ‘loop,’” explains O’Connor. “The ideas in them continually connect back to each other, and then move into other distinct works throughout the installation. There are connections between pieces as well as within them.” It is a new development in O’Connor’s practice that everything is linked, transforming the show into one comprehensive installation.

Mind Controller, 2011, Acrylic ink, colored pencil, and graphite on paper, 45 inches x 30 inches, Courtesy of Pierogi, NY

Meanwhile, O’Connor’s sources of inspiration vary. Popular medications and their side effects are as much a topic as the research of the British mathematician and early computer scientist Alan Turing. The Digital Age in general is of great importance. However, O’Connor’s contemplations are never linear. In “Turing Test,” which refers to a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior and pass as a human, he reverses course, examining instead the human’s capacity to act like a machine. This year, to test its abilities, IBM’s Watson computer competed on the quiz show Jeopardy. It was a futuristic human-versus-machine match-up and “What Is Toronto???” was Watson’s only incorrect response. One could argue that this imperfection added a touch of humanity to Watson’s programmed brain. O’Connor’s choice to make Watson’s false answer the title of his exhibition suggests that much of his content is sparked by the increasingly narrow divide between the real and virtual worlds.

Stephanie Buhmann is a freelance writer based in New York. Her articles and interviews with artists have been published by Sculpture Magazine, Art on Paper, Art Lies, Chelsea Now, The Brooklyn Rail and The Villager, among others. She is a contributing editor for

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