William J. O'Brien

The raw, often attitudinal sculptures and paintings of William J. O'Brien reject the sentimentality and preciousness generally associated with the handmade. Working extensively in ceramic, the artist creates highly tactile surfaces—some with bulbous, quasi-organic protrusions, others with hand-carved hatchings or the occasional sardonic grin—and further heightens these grotesque topographies with gestural applications of color and glaze.

O'Brien's mixed-media canvases show a similar interest in textural interplay and an almost obsessive pursuit of pattern; the result is a dense cacophony of disparate elements, conveying a studied messiness. O'Brien's work has been exhibited widely, including at the University of Chicago's Renaissance Society (2011), the Detroit Museum of Contemporary Art (2007), the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art (2005), and Artists Space in New York (2004).