May 25, 2011 - The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago - William O’Brien
May 25, 2011

William O'Brien

William J. O’Brien.
Installation view.

William O’Brien
May 15–June 26, 2011

The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago
5811 South Ellis Avenue, 4th floor
Chicago IL 60637

Chicago artist William J. O’Brien (b.1975) works in multiple mediums, including ceramic, textiles, wood, and metal, along with works on paper. His corpus reflects a playful attention to the expected properties of each material, and a subversion of their ordinary uses. This is his first museum solo exhibition, and will include 125 ceramic works, many of them never before exhibited.

O’Brien’s increasingly inventive sculpture work displays a messy exuberance that is, on one hand, distinctly anti-Minimalist in its sensibility. On the other hand, his work resists the sentimentality in the recent revival of “the handmade,” even while using materials, like ceramic or yarn, that are almost synonymous with old notions of craft. While no material appears to be off limits for O’Brien, an important uniting tie is a certain attitude toward the role of the pedestal—the pedestal is not a vehicle for display, but is integral to each work.

About The Renaissance Society

The Renaissance Society maintains as international reputation as one of the finest resources for contemporary art in the United States. Many of its exhibitions represent the artists’ national premieres, and many exhibitions include newly commissioned work. The museum offers educational programs that supplement the exhibition schedule, including concerts, lectures and readings. The Renaissance Society is located on the campus of the University of Chicago, in Cobb Hall, on the fourth floor. It is open Tuesday to Friday 10 am to 5 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 pm. Admission is free. Visit to learn more about the exhibitions and events.

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