SAN FRANCISCO – Helen O’Leary, art professor at Penn State University, has a solo show entitled “Writing the Unwritable Novel” at the Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco, November 6th – December. 31.
O’Leary joins broken wood, taut fibers, glue and paint to create the “gestural lyricism” of newly interpreted sculptural paintings, according to the gallery’s press release. The exhibition title comes from writer Alex Abramovich, who said that O’Leary “wrote the indescribable novel” while visiting her studio in 2016 during a MacDowell residency.
O’Leary’s sculptural paintings reflect her upbringing in Ireland and her education and adulthood in the United States. In the exhibition she deals with real and symbolic costs, with her process requiring a constant examination of “what you amputate, what you advance, what you sacrifice”.
O’Leary noted that their work is based on simple materials and gestures.
“Throughout my career I have constructed a very personal and idiomatic design language based on simple materials and inconspicuous gestures, a framework that acts as a kind of syntactic grid of shifting equivalences,” said O’Leary, her family history emerging from this process know, a narrative of greatness that fell in difficult times. “
O’Leary was born in County Wexford, Ireland and received her Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has been a faculty member at Penn State since 1991 and is currently focused on courses and projects related to sustainability.
Recent honors include the Rome Prize and the Italian Fellowship of the American Academy in Rome, two Pollock Krasner Prizes, and a Joan Mitchell Award for painting and sculpture. Exhibitions include the National Gallery of Art, Limerick, Ireland; Glasgow Museum of Art, Glasgow, Scotland; The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia; and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City, New York. Her work is represented in national and international collections.
More information about the exhibition can be found on the Patricia Sweetow Gallery website.