In his first New York solo exhibition, entitled The Architect’s House, Eamon O’Kane presents new large-scale oil paintings that explore his fascination with architecture and landscape. Created during his residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris from April to June 2008, these works recombine elements of Modernist masterpieces and set them in idyllic landscapes to give voice to a contemporary utopian ideal. At the same time, O’Kane’s paintings reference the more subversive aspects of literature, cinema and design to demonstrate the impossibility of achieving this ideal.
In Lloyd Wright’s Dream (2008), we are presented with an interior of a building by Frank Lloyd Wright that recently was completed, many years after his death. From the window of the room one can see the isolated, precariously perched “Vandamm House” from Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, which was a fictional building imagined by the film’s set designers but based on Wright’s architectural style. Cinematic references continue through the exhibition in works such as Casa Bo Bardi Midday Sunset Mix with Shining Carpet (2008). Here O’Kane draws a parallel between the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s movie The Shining, a structure that was built on a Native American burial ground and consumes its main character in the film, and the house that plays such a vital role in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. Hints of Poe’s imagery also appear in Wright, Le Corbusier, Mondrian Mix with Plants from Edgar Allan Poe’s Garden (2008), where creepy tendrils begin their choking crawl up the side of a hybridized Modernist structure.
O’Kane recognizes the dichotomy in his own paintings where he seems to offer the possibilities of hope, optimism, and redemption with one hand while snatching them away with the other through his surreal, foreboding, and threatening allusions. According to the artist, “Society . . . traps us with our desires. Philip Johnson’s ‘Glass House’ is like a cage while at the same time being a wonderful piece of architecture.” So for O’Kane, a home is not just a home, and green rolling hills are not just green rolling hills—they become symbols of a precarious scenario where utopia apparently is within reach but actually is on the verge of being obliterated by a disturbing presence that seems to be lurking just beneath the surface.