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Introduction

Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art (Tephra ICA) presents Danni O'Brien: Cross Sections, an exhibition of new work by artist Danni O'Brien.

Tephra ICA at Signature, located at the Signature apartment building in Reston, VA, is an innovative satellite gallery space that presents a year-round schedule of exhibitions featuring work by local and regional artists as selected by Tephra ICA curatorial staff.

Visitors are welcome Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–5pm.

Tephra ICA at Signature is provided in partnership with Boston Properties and Bozzuto, and generously sponsored by Reston Community Center.

Installation Views

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“I conceive of the works in a haphazard way, a quick, intuitive gathering and selection of the diagrams and found objects that initiate each piece. Then I spend months carefully contending with what I have laid out in a slow and meditative process, often resulting in a clash with my previous self. -Danni O’Brien

For this exhibition of new work, Baltimore based interdisciplinary artist Danni O’Brien (she/they) has built each artwork around a borrowed instructional diagram, carefully stripping away its original function and context. O’Brien uses the act of decontextualization deliberately, creating wall-hung constructions that are rich with connotation. Within the visceral surfaces and quasi-bodily forms the compositional logic of systems and mechanisms prevail.

Danni O'Brien: Cross Sections - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Homemade Barriers, 2022

“At the base of it, my work is a layering of material, often heavily connoted or nostalgic material. In this layering, I am interested in the arrangements and conglomerations that result, revealing how materials can misbehave or try to be something they are not.” - Danni O’Brien

In our current cultural moment, decontextualization (sampling, appropriation, misquotation, etc.) is ubiquitous to the point that pulling something out of context barely constitutes an act. As exemplified by the rise of conspiracy theories built from a hodgepodge of “facts” what is at stake in this rampant decontextualization is a shared sense of reality from which governmental and social structures can function. With this crisis of decontextualization as the backdrop to their practice, O’Brien slyly employs and decelerates the process of pulling something out of context.  She builds each artwork around a borrowed instructional diagram, which she carefully strips of its original function. Painstakingly articulated through humble materials such as pink insulation foam, paper mâché, pipe cleaners, and embedded found objects, the resulting wall hung constructions are disconcertainingly familiar yet resist recognition. In each work, O’Brien has tended carefully to the potential connotations of each line, shape, material, and texture, refusing to conform to the usual speed of consumption and the inundation of content that mark our contemporary lives. These works are political in that they challenge us to be critical consumers–to exercise our capacity to decode, to trace origins, to pay attention to how it is all adding up.  And we must be diligent, for in each of these works, lies the energy of an imminent break—something that is roiling but withheld, constrained but about to break through.

 

Danni O'Brien: Cross Sections - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Stoney Baloney Jewelry Box III, 2022

“We arrived at the title Cross Sections, because of that sense in Danni’s work that we are looking into an interior, whether bodily or synthetic, the inner workings of the thing are presented for inspection. Also, a cross section is a type of diagram used in many different contexts. You can find cross sections in architectural drawings, anatomy illustrations, user manuals, and textbooks for a whole variety of subjects including biology, archeology, astronomy, math, the list goes on. Danni’s work has that same breadth, as the connotations of her materials pull you in multiple directions simultaneously. They are informational, but not complete.”  - Hannah Barco, Curator

Biography

Danni O’Brien is an interdisciplinary artist from Northern Virginia currently based in Baltimore, Maryland. Her practice is rooted in irreverence, haphazard play, and owned queerness. O’Brien has exhibited nationally and internationally, having shown regionally with Arlington Arts Center, Hillyer Arts Space, Latela Curatorial, Current Space, Terrault, School 33 Art Center, and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, among others. She has been awarded residencies nationally and internationally at PLOP, The Wassaic Project, Proyecto Ace, Art Farm, Baltimore Clayworks, Azule, Red Lodge Clay Center, and The Maple Terrace. She is the recent recipient of a 2022 Individual Artist Grant from the Belle Foundation for Cultural Development. O’Brien is currently preparing for upcoming group exhibitions with Pazo Fine Art, Asya Geisberg, and Soloway Gallery in late summer 2022, and a solo exhibition with SHAG Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina this coming autumn.

Exhibition Checklist

Selected Works

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Stitching Stones, 2022

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Steady, 2021

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Tutorial for a Bruise (Homage to Eva Hesse), 2021

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Homemade Barriers, 2022

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Stoney Baloney Jewelry Box I, 2021

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Marble Math II, 2021

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Hot Dog Mitosis, 2021

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Stoney Baloney Jewelry Box III, 2022

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Clog II, 2021

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Stitching Stones, 2022

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Steady, 2021

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Tutorial for a Bruise (Homage to Eva Hesse), 2021

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Homemade Barriers, 2022

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Stoney Baloney Jewelry Box I, 2021

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Marble Math II, 2021

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Hot Dog Mitosis, 2021

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Stoney Baloney Jewelry Box III, 2022

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Clog II, 2021

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