Reception: Friday March 18, 7-9pm
March 17, 2011
through April 9, 2011
LZ Project Space is pleased to present Facing Laramie, a solo exhibition of video and paintings by Robert O’Connor with audio by sound artist Matt Page. This new work is a reflection on a recent trip O’Connor made to Laramie, Wyoming (made notorious in 1998 by the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard – a gay University of Wyoming student).
To O’Connor, Laramie signifies a conflicted place – a place that challenges his identity as a gay man and as an American. As the United States faces progress with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and steps toward marriage equality, and simultaneous struggles, like the recent wave of suicides among young gay men and women, Matthew Shepard’s lonely death remains a marker in time and a still-relevant call to action.
The artist’s self-portraits place him firmly in the position of empathetic proxy, acting out the role of isolated victim. “One Day This Kid” refers to David Wojnarowicz’s work of the same name, here using tributes to the prominent artist and gay activist along with O’Connor’s own childhood photograph. This differs from O’Connor’s general practice of using his own video or photos as a starting point for his loose, layered paintings, often incorporating text and visceral gestures of color to emphasize his solitary figure. In Laramie, O’Connor photographed his own shadow stretching across a hill, here re-contextualized as an installation alluding to absence and a darkness on the landscape caused by the body.
The stark contrast between O’Connor’s own experience of family and community acceptance and that of the violence that took place in Laramie, inspired this series. He sees it as a tribute to those have fallen (and continue to fall) victim to that violence but also a testament to those who were fortunate enough, in O’Connor’s words, to have built “lives as beautiful and expansive as a small town in Wyoming.”
Robert O’Connor is a New Jersey-based artist who studied drawing, painting, and printmaking at the Art Students League, National Academy of Design, and received his MFA from Vermont College in 2006. After being selected at NYSG’s Reality Gallery American Slide All in 2006, he had his first solo exhibition “The Waters are Unsafe” at NYSG in 2008 and was in the group show at NYSG titled “Every Man’s an Angel” in 2009. Other selected exhibitions include: Monmouth Museum, NJ; Tides Art Gallery, NJ (solo exhibition); Rotunda Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Cuchifritos Gallery, NY. Arizona State University Art Museum, AZ; O’Connor is also the founder and co-director of FilmOneFest.