Paintings by Gainesville artist John A. O’Connor are currently on display in The Blackboard Variations at the News-Journal Center in Daytona Beach, Florida. A University of Florida faculty member for 36 years before his retirement in 2005, O’Connor has had 36 solo exhibitions of his work, has been included in more than 200 group shows and is represented in public and private collections nationally and internationally.
Since 1985, the Blackboard paintings have been the predominant form of O’Connor’s art. Working in a style that he calls “Conceptual Realism,” O’Connor explores the nature of reality and the “virtual reality” of illusion. Using acrylic paint on Sintra, O’Connor creates blackboard images as a means of conveying information on a variety of subjects from the mundane to the absurd to the transcendent.
The News-Journal Center exhibition, sponsored by the Mike Curb College of Music, Entertainment and Art, Daytona State College, and by the Gary R. Libby Charitable Trust, is comprised of 17 paintings that explore music, dance, theatre and film. In contrast to the visual arts, which consist of objects that are intended to endure unchanged through time, the performing arts are transitory, alive in the moment and then gone. Even when recorded, they can be re-experienced only in a different format.
O’Connor’s blackboards capture both the permanence of the image and the ephemeral nature of the performance. The title of the exhibition, The Blackboard Variations, is a play on words based on the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Goldberg Variations. In 2005, New York Times art critic William Zimmer wrote of O’Connor’s paintings: “The power of trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) is that it presents its ephemera as lasting for eternity, while blackboards are erased leaving palimpsests. They can hold any kind of content even the absurd kind, as they implicitly state that they are records of the transient nature of thought and ideas.”
“In The Blackboard Variations,” says O’Connor, “I invite the viewer to enter an environment of palimpsests: ghosts of gestures, the residue of images and words linking thoughts and concepts. Like music, theatre, dance and film, these blackboards ask the viewer to question both the concept of time, and the nature of reality itself."
The exhibition is on display through Sept. 2, 2015. To learn more, view the video above by WDSC TV-15.