John David O’Brien at Roswell Space

John David O’Brien, HS 02, wän-d(ə-)riŋ, Roswell Space; Image courtesy of the gallery

Myths and Tales from a Long Journey

Roswell Space, Los Angeles
closed April 18

By Sydney Walters
wän-d(ə-)riŋ at Roswell Space is like visiting a traveller’s den. John David O’Brien opens his Wunderkamer and presents snapshots of his journey and fantastic collections gleaned along the way. The exhibition highlights some of O’Brien’s printmaking and installation body of work. Two leather jackets, reminiscent of WWII bomber jackets, are displayed on a rod as if suited by an invisible person. The older of the two jackets (made in 1995) has what appears to be four bronze animal heads affixed to the front of the jacket. The hybridization of metal and leather etch out a conventionally masculine space that is repeated throughout the installation.

Displayed on leather-guarded shelves are two resin sculptures cast as if on the verge of tipping over. An embedded partial wooden sculpture of a city allude to the iconic ship in a bottle. In this splintered scene, O’Brien couches his journey as a rocky frontier as opposed to the insulated serenity of a poised ship. The worn and hardwearing nature of his sculptures suggest a battered traveler and the necessity of armour, both physical and non physical, to brave the journey.

His “Paesaggi Storici (Storied Landscapes)” are the captivating highlight of his exhibit. Although executed with modern gestures and mixed media, they lean into the grandeur and romanticism of 19th century landscape paintings. His hasty scrawls are likened to impressionist urgency to capture ever changing sunlight and his patchwork of mediums accentuate the diagnostic approach to render vast landscapes.

This patchwork also signifies a piecing together of memories and allowing imagination to fill the gaps. In his series “Accidental Orientalist”, O’Brien enlarges and prints polaroid photographs his father took in Japan. He carefully constructs a playful color field that flickers in and out of the photograph. The oblong, transparent washes of color are like shadows cast by an Alexander Calder mobile. Like a child scribbling in an adult’s books, O’Brien revels in the lightness and heaviness of myth and history.

Roswell Space
3050 Roswell St. Los Angeles, 90065

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