O’Connor works on his large drawings for months, even years. Using the simple media of colored pencil and graphite on paper, he creates highly complex drawings that feel cumulative, whether he is rendering a convoluted story or generating diagrams that allude to greater forces at play. In these works as well as in smaller drawings, collages, and sculptures, O’Connor reconstitutes data and processes from systems that shape human behavior (social, political, historical, or psychological) into wildly original visual forms and patterns.
John Yau writes, “John O’Connor seems to simultaneously occupy three divergent positions. He is a statistician crunching numbers, a satirist working in the mode of Jonathan Swift, and an occultist trying to divine the messages hidden in the stuff of everyday life. His work brings together dry, unrelenting logic, a sharp eye for human foibles, and a variety of means for unlocking the secret knowledge in the mundane.”
O’Connor’s recent body of work particularly investigates the relationship between singular events and their interconnections that can generate consequential transformations. He dissects points where mathematics, science, politics, psychology, linguistics, consumerism, conspiracy, the supernatural, and related phenomena intersect and merge. O’Connor looks for phase changes in these intersections – the moments where one thing evolves into something new. These moments can be incongruent, uncomfortable, even alarming, and often lead to responses that are funny, absurd, random, aggressive, or passive, like when a bar fight escalates, or as in his drawing 'Consciousness of Consciousness,' self-reflection reverberates into abstraction. O’Connor seeks to identify and visualize these pivotal instants, which are, however, imperceptible in real time and recognizable only in hindsight.
Just as O’Connor’s subject matter lies in forces beyond our comprehension or control, so, too, the experience of viewing his works requires an acceptance of disorientation as a means of understanding or revelation. “In O’Connor’s work the eye darts across the surfaces, among words and signs, along lines and patterns that move in a sometimes linear, at times circular fashion, doubling back on themselves, ending, expanding inward and outward. The act of looking and reading becomes a dynamic of following along and diverging, of positioning and repositioning among the known and the proposed, the given and the possible.” (–Philip Glahn)
John O’Connor’s works are included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art (NYC), and the Whitney Museum (NYC), and have been included in exhibitions at the Tang Museum (Saratoga Springs, NY), Luohu District Art Museum (Shenzhen, China), The Arkansas Arts Center, Weatherspoon Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Baltimore, among others. O'Connor received an MFA from Pratt Institute and studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He is the recipient of a 2023 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, and a MacDowell Colony Residency. A book of O’Connor’s works spanning ten years with essays by Robert Storr, Rick Moody, and John Yau, will also be available. www.lspacegallery.com