Richard Heller Gallery Presents:David O'Brien: My Pet DoppelgängerOpening Reception: Saturday, May 12th, 5-7 pmExhibition: May 12 - June 16, 2012
David O'Brien, Friendship Drawing #wtfWTFwtf, 2012, C-Print, 40" x 48", Edition of 2
Richard Heller Gallery is excited to present My Pet Doppelgänger, David O’Brien’s first exhibition with the gallery and the first solo show of his new body of photographic work.
Over two years and tens of thousands of photographs in the making, David O’Brien’s debut in photography is a massive undertaking in real-world social networking. The result is a collection of images of almost shocking energy and complexity.
Armed with a keen interest in group dynamics, swarm theory and emergence, O’Brien initially set out to re-interpret a series of his large-scale crayon drawings as photo collages. The drawings were swarms of thousands of tiny multi-colored figures, nicknamed “potato people drawings” for their dime-sized circular bodies. A central motivation was simply to find a way to break the cloistered pattern of the artist alone in the studio, laboring over drawings night after night. This simple impulse snowballed into an unexpectedly ambitious and all-consuming enterprise.
In his usual persistent and somewhat obsessive manner, O’Brien began photographing everyone he knew. Months were spent understanding and perfecting technique and methodically planning photo sessions with friends one at a time. In this way the art making process was completely transformed from something solitary and monastic to something social and endlessly collaborative. It's a study in identity, body language and human diversity. Each individual photo session is a unique performance, documented and aggregated into an immense diagram of shared experience.
O’Brien rejects any sort of generative, algorithmic approach to collage, preferring instead to place each image one at a time, finding joy in seeing inter-personal relationships emerge from placing one friend next to another. As compositions grew larger and more intense, a custom computer was even built by the artist powerful enough to handle the titanic file sizes. And when friends couldn't make it to Los Angeles, the entire photo setup (which itself is a continually evolving project) got packed up and transported to a different city. The project, initially nicknamed The Human Entropy Project, is still ongoing and has become something of a phenomenon. Look closely and you may find someone you recognize. O’Brien stresses that it's not about how many people are there but who is there, what binds and separates them, and how they interact in this entirely synthetic space.
My Pet Doppelgänger is a reminder of the profound degree of identity duplication exploding every day all over the web. Each one of us now lives with multiple doppelgängers; shadows of ourselves in the form of accounts, profiles, preferences, feeds, posts and photo streams. Who are all of these creatures? Are they friends, pets, monsters? To what degree can we even control them? What sort of life do they lead when we're not looking? Might they replicate themselves like RNA, or some other chemical precursor to biological life billions of years ago? These are the questions O’Brien’s images begin to raise. At the same time the work paints a chaotic and profoundly positive image of humanity as we know it today, each one of us competing for attention, connecting, searching for individuality and flying through space.
David O’Brien was born in Washington D.C. and raised in rural southern Maryland. He received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Virginia Tech, most notably working for Frank Gehry in Los Angeles before quitting architecture to pursue art. His work has been exhibited in solo shows in Berlin and Los Angeles and in group shows in Los Angeles, New York and throughout the U.S. He's been published in numerous magazines including Wired and +81 Magazine in Japan. David’s work was recently featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles MOCA FRESH Exhibition in March of 2012. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles.Richard Heller Gallery2525 Michigan Avenue, #B-5A, Santa Monica, CA 90404, 310.453.9191