We are preoccupied with time. If we could learn to love space as deeply as we are now obsessed with time, we might discover a new meaning in the phrase to live like men. Edward Abbey
Morgan O’Hara has been living for the month of August at the Školská 28 gallery, using it as her temporary studio space during her residency in Prague. It has been the warmest month in the history in recorded meteorological data for Prague, and indeed, the entire world. She brought certain ideas to the residency, and tried to engage her process in a dialogue with all possible aspects, including architecture, surroundings, history, social strata, topology, and the transitions between day and night with regard to the changing conditions of light, temperature and acoustics.
Among the carefully selected means to find the proper tool for articulating her intent was the decision to invert the usual attitude of the artist toward the gallery space and the institution. O’Hara shifts the attention of the viewer from the artifacts of the work toward the normally unseen, the backgrounded, the peripheral, and the structure, especially focusing on the traces left behind on the blank walls by dozens of previous exhibitions. She makes the texture of the wooden floor visible, transforming it into a matrix for several large scale graphite rubbings, tracing the movement of sunlight with tape and numbers, and quite strikingly making use of the basics of red, yellow and blue paint on various architectural members.
O’Hara has been known in the Czech art scene since the early 90s, as well as internationally, mainly through her ongoing series of conceptual Live Transmissions. These “wireless” performances involve the artist in close engagement with her surroundings, manifested in drawings made in accord with her real-time direct observation of human activity, with multiple razor-sharp pencils and using both hands simultaneously.
From the local art context, this remind us of the drawings of birdsongs of Olga Karlíková and the experiments by Dalibor Chatrný (with whom O’Hara has performed many times), Milan Maur, and even Vladimír Merta’s wind drawings. Through these drawings, O’Hara captures and makes visible different situations, processes and events taking place in time and space. Mostly focusing on movement, but sometimes on sound. Her graphite drawings and site-specific wall drawings go beyond the established categories of figure drawing and abstraction, and offer the viewer an immediate translation of a single perceptual and spatial framework of form and meaning, transferred to another plane. Live Transmissions are part of this installation in the form of a series that has been captured at the paper mill in Velké Losiny, as well as the sound recording that accompanies it on display in the Hole Gallery.
Opening: program: AIKIDO, a martial art which O’Hara has practiced for 20 years and which is the instigator of her two handed drawing practice, will inaugurate the evening with an open class in which gallery visitors are invited to participate. The class will be followed by O’Hara’s Live Transmission performances with Jaroslav Štastný and Lucie Vítková.
The concept for my installation is site-specific and very basic: the Školská space is itself the artwork. I have amplified and rendered visible the space by working with architectural elements, flooring, scars, marks, repairs, scrapes, smudges and holes left from previous exhibitions by using black and white, graphite, and the primary colors, each in an essential form. By stripping away expression, imitation, figuration, documentation, and representation, I have focused on the basics to allow the visitor to really see what is here and has always been here but which has been subservient to the exhibition of artworks. In this case, Školská itself is the artwork, if there needs to be one.
Working with a large 50 kg graphite stick, nearly invisible elements of the floor and courtyard have been made visible. Working with primary colors, moldings have been highlighted and grid drawings have been made, taking a cue from the glass grids of the light wells. Defined spots of sunlight, moonlight and the neighbors’ lights have been taped onto the floor with their corresponding time of appearance. Audio and electrical cords have become drawings. Spider webs have been left intact.
Nine Live Transmissions drawings done in the Velké Losiny paper mill represent the dignity of dedicated human activity. Aikido as essential movement will enter the space at the opening. It is my hope that those visiting the exhibition see the space as it is, with all the elements which have both accumulated and deteriorated over time, and will see it as itself and not just as a container for the articulation of sound and display of art.
Morgan O’Hara, September 2015, Prague
Born in Los Angeles, Morgan O’Hara grew up in post-war Japan. She has lived in Europe for 25 years. She now lives in New York, working extensively internationally. O’Hara met John Cage in 1961 as a 20-year-old art student, and his music and writings have had considerable influence on her practice.
An interest in non-verbal communication and the importance of concentrated attention to the essentials of daily life, O’Hara’s half-century of art practice consists of conceptually-based performative drawing, site-specific wall drawing and site-specific installation. She has invented a method of drawing entitled Live Transmission which takes a step further in the evolution of the historical practice of drawing.
O’Hara’s work has been shown in North, Central and South America, Western, Central and Eastern Europe, the Far East, Southeast Asia and Australia, and is represented in major museums, notably the British Museum, Hammer Museum LA, Cranbrook Museum, National Gallery Washington DC, Stedelijk Museum, Olomouc Museum, Moravska Gallery, Janacek Museum, and the Macau Art Museum.
The residency of Morgan O'Hara is supported by The Agosto Foundation. Special Thanks: Ruční papírna Velké Losiny.