Kevin O'Connell


Kevin O'Connell
Jun 20 – Aug 1, 2009

In tandem with a Kevin O'Connell's extensive solo exhibition entitled "Everything Comes Broken" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Robischon Gallery features a distinctive group of photographs from the new series which focuses on energy-related structures within the landscapes of northeastern Colorado. Long a passionate observer with a keen eye for subtle variations in high-plains sky and earth, in this series O'Connell considers not only the enduring land itself, but also incursions above and below that are undertaken to extract various energy resources. In the artist's view, the openness of the plains belies its abundant fertility. Furthermore, its appearance of emptiness makes it easy to consider these sites expendable – available to be developed as deemed necessary to further human need and expansion. O'Connell's images of severely weathered surfaces of the long-in-place forms contrast other views of freshly-painted pipelines that affirm society's renewed commitment toward preserving the status quo. By choosing to place industrial structures directly in the center of each photograph, the artist allows us to question specific energy aggressors and the impacts of land use as they relate to energy consumption. As artful commentary, the intense light captured in each photograph invites further investigation and a quest for clarity.

While O'Connell's work at MCA Denver challenges the romantic representation of spinning wind turbines as green producers of electricity, Robischon Gallery's exhibition concentrates on the machinery of oil and gas extraction. Each photograph, titled with a number and the letters "CE" standing for "Conventional Entropy," presents a singular oil-separator building with attached tank or lone oil-holding tanks as visual metaphors representing entropy. Entropy is the degree of disorder that increases as the available energy within a closed system decreases. Using the concept of entropy as analogous to American oil-consumption habits, the monolithic structures possess what the artist terms "terrible beauty." Seen through O'Connell's meticulously-honed eye, even a crumbling, decrepit oil-holding tank takes on a monumental presence in its slow, inglorious decay. By presenting images that allow for a contemplative look at disquieting objects in the landscape, the artist undertakes a thought provoking and complex dialog that posits no quick and easy solutions. Both the still-grey and welcoming blue skies perpetually meet the ever present line of the horizon suggesting a sense of time which offers the artist's larger question of where do we go from here.

Kevin O'Connell's photographs are included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Denver Art Museum and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris. His work has also been featured in numerous group exhibitions including the Aspen Art Museum's "Colorado Biennial" along with exhibitions at the Colorado Historical Society, the Arvada Center and the widely recognized "Decades of Influence" show at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art. Everything Comes Broken at MCA Denver runs from July 16 through October 2009.