Tomorrow Saturday, February 23 2013, New York blue-chip gallerist Marianne Boesky is opening a show on the work of Chicago-based artist William J. O’Brien (b. 1975). Titled “Wet n’Wild” the exhibition showcases the young artist’s talents in sculpture, mix-media and works on paper. Though it’s hard to judge an artist by a few works, my favorite were the colorful ornamental geometric abstractions that reminded me of works by Swiss painter Paul Klee and Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes. They made me smile.
Perhaps what’s so seductive about O’Brien’s art is that you don’t have to think too hard to enjoy it. His colored pencil patterns on paper are psychedelic and have a naïve child-like quality to them that’s uplifting. In watching my 5-year old niece draw, I realize that most of the time she just goes with the flow and something eventually comes out that she enjoys. The design develops as she proceeds; something O’Brien is akin to doing as well.
Somewhere in history, fine art became something only brainy and deeply complex minds could understand (or so that’s what the high priests in the art world want you to think) and labeling a painting “decorative” somehow made it of a lesser category. Certainly this has been the case since the 16th century when different types of art commanded higher prices. So for example, religious scenes commanded more than depictions of fruits and vegetables.
Today’s contemporary art market has turned that on its head (though many in the scene still adhere to the pedantic label for mainly snooty reasons) with numerous ornamental works commanding extremely high prices for their decorative appeal. Marianne Boesky, is one gallerist that is not afraid of including artists that may be labeled as “decorative” within the group of artists she represents. She is a pro, having helped start the careers of some of today’s stellar artists such as Murakami, Nara, Furnas and Yuskavage. But take note, “decorative” does NOT mean “without merit”, there is a difference which I will address another time!
image credits: Marianne Boesky, Chelsea Gallery, New York who represents the artist. The exhibition runs through 23 March 2013.