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LIGHT + METAL: Kevin O'Connell on his New Canyon Series

photo-eye Gallery LIGHT + METAL:
Kevin O'Connell on his New Canyon Series
photo-eye Gallery is proud to have new platinum/palladium works by represented artist Kevin O'Connell in our LIGHT + METAL exhibition from his Canyon Series.

Platinum/Palladium Prints from Kevin O'Connell's Canyon Series installed in LIGHT + METAL at photo-eye Gallery
photo-eye Gallery is proud to feature new platinum/palladium works by represented artist Kevin O'Connell in our LIGHT + METAL exhibition. These prints are from Kevin O'Connell's Canyon Series, a stark and subtle sequence of dense and tangled landscapes. Unlike O'Connell's previous wide graceful views of the Colorado plains, the Canyon Series is tight and opaque. The all-over composition utilizes rich tones and natural gestures to create dark evocative scenes.

Exposing the brushed edges of his hand applied photographic emulsion, O'Connell acknowledges the images as his expression. He utilizes the landscape to build a cohesive emotional and personal statement—brushstrokes echo branches, creating a dialog between the artist and the environment. Returning to the Platinum/Palladium processes after an extended hiatus, O'Connell's Canyon Series invites examination at an intimate distance, revealing themselves over time.

We recently spoke with Kevin about the design and intention behind the works from his Canyon Series included in LIGHT + METAL, and he offered the following statement.

Kevin O'Connell, Canyon Series #8655, Platinum/Palladium Print, 14x11" Image, 1/3, $1400

My grandfather, Ernst, was a carpenter who immigrated to the US from Germany after WWI. As a child, I spent countless hours indulging my imagination in his shop. It was a giant building lit mostly by skylights that gave the space a glow and created mysterious soft shadows. The place smelled of sawdust and oil. There was a towering wall of shelves stacked with hundreds of old cigar boxes. Each box was labeled with handwriting: 3” screws, 6p nails, 1/2” bolts… He had lived through the depression and was compelled to save everything that contained the possibility of use. One of my early jobs was straitening bent nails.

Kevin O'Connell, Canyon Series #8632
 Platinum/Palladium Print 14x11" Image 
 Edition of 3, $1400
As a young adult, I swung a hammer on the framing crew and learned the joy of making things. Ernst worked every day well into his 80’s. He had a strong work ethic and was a stubborn SOB. It occurs to me that his self-made life, confidence, and perseverance are inspiring but I don’t aspire to his rancor.

Today, I still like working with my hands, and while I appreciate the power and possibilities of the microprocessor, I find the experience of working on a computer a bit soul-crushing. Yet, to great satisfaction, I’ve made several bodies of work that were created with both digital input and output. It’s clear that some projects lend themselves to a certain technique – I believe that the path to the lies in the original vision.

I spent the winter of 2017 studying Japanese calligraphy. Every morning I sat down at my desk, breathed, and made few ensos. Then I would study some characters. It became a meditation. I never became very good but it was a joy. Inevitably the process reminded me of preparing a sheet of paper for making a platinum print. I love the feel of the brushes, the touch of the paper, and the gestures of line making. It led me back to the darkroom for the first time in a decade.

My prints in LIGHT + METAL illustrate, what are for me, the best qualities of the medium: dark, rich black; suggestions of light; and the expression of the brush. A friend once suggested that the act of painting platinum on a piece of paper is “like a caress”. That caress is evident in all of the images of this series. I made the images on a very thin 28gr/m kozo that would only tolerate two or three passes with the brush without abrading. As a result, the act of putting the brush to the paper is a commitment from which there is no return. It is a leap of faith that may yield only one or two satisfactory prints after a full day in the darkroom.

Each print contains a unique black mass of platinum that is framed by the edges of the mat – when the pieces are viewed in a series the mass dances in the frame and exists independent of the imagery, reminding me of the darker Rothko paintings.

Kevin O'Connell, Canyon Series #8651, Platinum/Palladium Print, 14x11" Image, Ediiton of 3, $1400

Kevin O'Connell in his Darkroom
Kevin O’Connell was born in Hammond, Indiana amongst slowly decaying steel mills and oil refineries. The post-industrial landscape fostered an early fascination with large machines, energy, and temporality. During cross-country road trips in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Kevin discovered the vastness and isolation of the West. After moving to Denver in 1981, the horizon and the theme of water (as well as the lack thereof) became a significant factor in his work. His most recent series of still photographs and videos, “Inundation” (2016), present a visual departure from the images of the arid landscapes of Colorado. Kevin’s work is held in numerous public and private collections and he has exhibited extensively, including numerous solo exhibits such as “Everything Comes Broken” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2009) and Santa Fe University of Art and Design (2014), “Inundation” (2016), “Memories of Water” (2014), and “Moments of Inertia” (2011) at the Robischon Gallery in Denver. He has been interviewed on Colorado Public Radio and has received two fellowship grants at the Ucross Foundation.


LIGHT + METAL has been extended at photo-eye Gallery 
through Saturday, September 22nd, 2018. 

For additional information on Kevin O'Connell's work, 
and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Staff at 
505-988-5152 x202 or