William Eckhardt Kohler reviews Helen O'Leary: The Geometry of Dirt at The Irish Art Center, New York, on view through January 5, 2014.
Kohler writes that the show 'is comprised of works that straddle painting and sculpture. Grounded in an ethos of work, sweat and hard fought emotional truth, they convey, at the same time, spiritual and aesthetic transcendence… One paradox of these pieces is how they land as fractured, minimalist icons, but also suggest ravaged and folded pieces of cardboard. They are at once ragged, solid and radiant. The way light rakes across the monochrome folds of their shallow relief implies an illusory space, but also reads like an opaque plaster cast of a window. The holes and punctures in the support create literal openings/windows, shifting the objects from paintings to sculpture, especially when the support strata are left visible. Some of the pieces are comprised entirely of the strata and become an absence of painting, like a Mondrian grid, stripped of all idealization, with open space instead of blocks of color. The intellectual theory, demateriality and transcendence insisted upon by her minimalist artistic antecedents is rejected in favor of something experiential and earth-bound, like Robert Ryman without the purity."