Western Exhibitions

April 26 to June 1, 2013


In Gallery 1  

  Robyn O'Neil
Miserable Hawaii, 2012
Oil pastel on paper
, 7 1/2  x 10 inches 
Chicago, IL -- For immediate release, April 10, 2013

ROBYN O'NEIL returns to Chicago.

In her first solo show at Western Exhibitions, Robyn O'Neil presents new works on paper: oil pastel and graphite drawings, portraying expressionistic scenes populated by disembodied floating heads, monks, ears, mysterious female figures, faceless busts and other enigmatic characters. In gallery 2, she has curated the first solo show by Atlanta-based sculptor, Eli Jones. Both shows open on Friday, April 26 with a free public reception from 5 to 8pm, and run through June 1, 2013.

Full press release is below and on our website, with preview images:

Western Exhibitions
845 W Washington Blvd
Second Floor
Chicago, IL 60607 USA
(312) 480-8390
Gallery hours: Wed-Sat, 11am-6pm  

More than just a new body of work, Robyn O'Neil reveals entirely new imagery and concerns (and uses, shockingly, some color), while retiring the mysterious sweatsuit-clad men who have populated her epic and emotional drawings for the past 12 years. The retirement of the middle-aged sweatsuit men, from her "End of the World" series, begun in 2001, comes after the two-year creation of O'Neil's most ambitious work to date, a massive triptych aptly titled HELL, last presented in New York City in 2011. The making of HELL took a heavy psychic toll on O'Neil as she barricaded herself from the outside world in order to complete this project. She saw this time and this piece as a period of self-punishment and repentance which forced her, in her own words, to "restructure absolutely everything". We strongly urge you to listen to her interview on the podcast, The Artist's Conversation , where O'Neil speaks candidly, incredibly so, about the hell of HELL.

Hey Robyn, This new work could be read as a sort of reversal of your apocalyptic themes of the past 12 years. I see tectonic plates floating around, tribal encampments dotting spare landscapes. Looks to me like the beginning of time, or what comes after HELL. These new figurative drawings are moody and nervy, in a good way, depicting a kind of psychological surrealism. Some of these drawings -- the landscape-y ones with what looks to be clouds over mountains, remind me of Arthur Dove (one of my faves). I know that you are reticent to discuss just what, exactly, is going on in this body of work, but it seems to be, to me, about death and re-birth, mental landscapes (thought-scapes?) rendered visible for the first time. Ghosts and remembrances, evidence of struggles. I keep coming back to the word moody -- I love how moody these drawings are, so dark with the chiaroscuro, so restless with the snippets of surreal imagery and energy. Brooding even.
-- cobbled together from emails written to the artist by Western Exhibitions


Robyn O'Neil's last solo show in Chicago was in 2009 at Tony Wight Gallery. She was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1977 and currently lives in Los Angeles, California. O'Neil has been included in numerous group exhibitions throughout the US and internationally. Some of the venues in which she has exhibited include the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, American University Museum in Washington, DC, and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tampa, Florida. Her work was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including an Irish Film Board Award for a film written and art directed by her entitled "WE, THE MASSES" which was conceived at Werner Herzog's Rogue Film School. Although some of her favorite things include The Karate Kid, Lifetime Movie Network, and Dawson's Creek, she claims to maintain a fairly average intelligence.

In Gallery 2 


Eli Jones


Little Drue, 2013
painted ceramic, 5 1/4 x 3 1/2 x 3 3/4 inches
side and front views

Eli Jones is an Atlanta based sculptor predominantly working in clay. Jones's work is no-frills and direct, unapologetically personal. He proudly calls himself an "Emotionalist". HEADS OF FAMILY is the artist's first solo exhibition, and included are clay busts and a new medium for Jones, paintings. At first imagining these large-scale un-stretched works on canvas as merely backdrops for his busts, he soon found these paintings were necessary counterpoints to the sculptures.

Responding to a period of tremendous loss, these busts are representations of seven family members, each of them dying within the past three years. Jones, also a pianist and accomplished songwriter in several Atlanta based bands, wanted to memorialize these men by sculpting their essence and showing them to the world on pedestals, the sculptural version of what he has done for loved ones through songwriting. He approached each bust very differently style-wise, and the manner points to the expressive portraits of George Condo and Andre Ethier. One blocky and almost cubist, another traditionally sculpted, almost Hellenistic, and one comically and cartoonishly mustachioed, Jones states, "these men, although linked by blood, were as different as you could possibly imagine. It felt vital that I approach each of them with a divergent methodology, a different poetry." He unified this series by painting each of them a flat black and showing the busts in an almost eerie positioning, with their heads turned away from the viewer. Jones is trying to capture that delicate period of time right after a loved one dies. They are painfully fading into the shadows of the past, yet being exalted and remembered perhaps more vividly than when they were alive.

Jones's paintings are a bit more mysterious, hinting at gravesites and ghosts. All imagery floats on flat black grounds, colorful and precise rips and tears through the canvas appear to be rainbow-like connections between earth and heaven. Another pull towards finding peace with what is now gone. Both fanciful and sensitive reveries, these paintings fall in a strange space between somber and euphoric.

Eli Jones lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He was born in 1977 in Memphis, Tennessee and graduated with a degree in Studio Art from Georgia State University. Jones makes a living playing piano and being a personal chef. Until recently, he was content quietly making sculptures in his backyard and garage. Jones is now ready to exhibit his work, and will continue to labor over a 25-foot tall carved wood sculpture twelve years in the making entitled "Help Me!".