Works by Artist John O’Donnell at Westover’s Schumacher Gallery

An exhibition of paintings and a video piece by the artist John O’Donnell, entitled STILLLIFE, is currently on display in Westover School’s Schumacher Gallery. A public reception with the artist will be held in the gallery on Saturday, March 22nd from 4 to 6 pm.

Located in the School’s Louise B. Dillingham Performing Arts Center, the Schumacher Gallery is open Mondays through Fridays from noon until 5 pm and Saturdays from 1 to 5 pm whenever Westover is in session; it is closed on Sundays. Because the School will not be in session from February 27th through March 18th, the exhibition will be open to the public through February 26th and will then reopen from March 19th through March 28th. Visitors may access the gallery by coming to the main entrance of the School, which is located on the Middlebury Green.

STILLLIFE is a title that refers not only to the category of painting but also to a calm reflection on life and time. O’Donnell’s process and materials are inspired by the history of painting and contemporary abstraction. In the studio he paints directly onto found objects and then attempts to replicate them on a burlap canvas with gesso and acrylic paint; sometimes he uses oil paint and spray paint to reference different historical and contemporary processes. The result is a casual but considered painting loosely depicting an object through gesture and liberal application paint – often directly out of the tube. Most paintings and objects are loosely related, but certain pieces directly reference moments from art history; an example of this is a piece entitled Flag, directly influenced by the famous painting with the same title by Jasper Johns.

The exhibition also includes a video piece created by O’Donnell, who was inspired by a musical composition written and produced by Seattle-based musician Jean Chalant.

O’Donnell associates his process and ideology with the New Casualists, a movement defined by the painter and critic Sharon L. Butler in 2011. In an article titled “Abstract Painting: The New Casualists,” published in the Brooklyn Rail, Butler describes the New Casualists and the processes and ideas embraced: “There is a studied, passive-aggressive incompleteness to much of the most interesting abstract work that painters are making today. But the subversion of closure isn’t their only priority. They also harbor a broader concern with multiple forms of imperfection: not merely what is unfinished but also the off-kilter, the overtly offhand, the not-quite-right. The idea is to cast aside the neat but rigid fundamentals learned in art school and embrace everything that seems to lend itself to visual intrigue – including failure. The painters take a meta approach that refers not just to earlier art historical styles, but back to the process of painting itself. These self-amused but not unserious painters have abandoned the rigorously structured propositions and serial strategies of previous generations in favor of playful, unpredictable encounters.” 

O’Donnell, who lives and works in Connecticut, is a multidisciplinary artist and has created performance pieces for the Museum of New Art in Detroit, Proof Gallery in Boston, Flux Space in Philadelphia, and SOHO20 Gallery in New York City. John has exhibited his prints at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, the Print Center in Philadelphia, the International Print Center in New York, and Seoul Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea. His prints are a part of many collections, including the Kohler Library Collection, the Polish Fulbright Foundation, and the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. His work was recently featured in Kolaj Magazine, a publication based in Montreal. He is an adjunct professor of studio and digital arts at University of Connecticut, Gateway Community College, and Eastern Connecticut State University.

Westover is a selective boarding and day school in Middlebury, Connecticut, with 205 students in grades 9-12 from 17 states and 20 countries. The School offers its students more than 20 Advanced Placement courses as well as signature programs in science, engineering, art history, and music. 

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