John O'Reilly: Montages from 2008-2011


In his seventh solo exhibition at Hosfelt Gallery, 81-year-old, Boston area artist John O’Reilly moves away from the black and white work that he has been making for the past 40 years – to work in color. Bits of color photographs taken by O’Reilly are combined with imagery from art history and flea market-finds in complex and sometimes erotically-charged collages (that O’Reilly refers to as “montages”) exploring issues of beauty, love, religion, death and art.


In one series, O’Reilly mines a cache of photos of wrestlers. Conjoined with images of 16th and 17th century religious and mythological paintings, he creates sinister pictures of perverse beauty and grace. In a second series, he imagines a turning point for American modernist painter Marsden Hartley. O’Reilly has long been haunted and inspired by Hartley’s life. In a series called “Dogtown-Hartley”, O’Reilly blends his own color photographs of the glacial boulders that influenced Hartley’s mature painting style with vintage and art historical photos to imagine the psychological landscape in which Hartley came to grips with his sexuality and found his voice as an artist.


O’Reilly’s works are masterfully bound together in the same sort of way as are our dreams. Personal history and fantasy intertwine and become indistinguishable. The past, present and future co-exist. Unlikely juxtapositions are inexplicably logical and uncannily apt.


Since his inclusion in the 1995 Whitney Biennial exhibition, O’Reilly has been exhibited and collected extensively by museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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