Morgan O’Hara (Los Angeles 1941) was raised in an international community in post-war Japan. Her practice researches the vital movement of living beings through drawing. In 1989 she began doing performative drawing in international performance art festivals, did her first site specific wall drawings and began the practice of aikido, a Japanese martial art. In 1997 O’Hara’s work was honored with a solo show in the newly opened Drawing Room at the Drawing Center in New York. O’Hara lives in New York and works internationally.
Her work is culturally contextualized in the practice of drawing as a fundamental human endeavor and is continuous with the time-honored practice of drawing from life. It requires connection, direct observation and LIVE TRANSMISSION. She draws from and builds on the historical continuum of the field. This work transcends the arbitrary “oppositions” between abstract and figurative art, between purely gestural expression and documentary intent, creating narrative work which results in a final product which is not figurative. The drawings themselves become a third actor or mediator in the experience. That which was beneath notice becomes concretized on the page as the paper receives the image.
The method she has perfected requires close observation and actual drawing in real time with multiple razor-sharp pencils and both hands. O’Hara condenses movement into accumulations of graphite line, combining the controlled refinement of classical drawing with the sensuality of spontaneous gesture. Her LIVE TRANSMISSIONS render visible normally invisible or fleeting movement patterns, through seismograph-like drawing.
Her site-specific wall drawings are based on the LIVE TRANSMISSIONS which are projected onto a large wall, using architectural elements of a given space to determine scale and position.
O’Hara met John Cage as a twenty year old art student and his thinking and writings and music have been a strong influence for a half century. In honor of his 100th birthday she created a series of drawings – QUESTIONS FROM SILENCE – which bring to the forefront his inscrutable ability to question everything. One hundred drawings of the ear, universal symbol as well as instrument for listening, were matched with questions from Cage’s seminal book Silence, published in 1961, the year in which they met. They have been on tour in Europe in a show honoring Cage since the spring of 2012 in Vienna, Prague, Ostrova, Budapest and in the National Drawing Invitational at the Arkansas Arts Center.
OPEN CAGE: BRATISLAVA was created by O’Hara and performed in Czechoslovakia in 1992 on the occasion of Cage’s 80th birthday. An updated version of the collaborative performance work, OPEN CAGE: NEW YORK, created and directed by O’Hara, was performed at Eyebeam on 16 June 2012 as a part of the Chelsea Music Festival during the centennial of the birth of John Cage.
Important residencies include MacDowell Colony, New Hampshire; Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Macau Museum of Art, China; Nha San Studio Hanoi, New Space Arts Foundation Hue, and Zero Space Saigon,Vietnam; Aomori Contemporary Art Center, Japan; Guapamacataro, Michoacan, Mexico; Operation Table, Kitakyushu, Japan, Emily Harvey Foundation, Venice, Italy.
Recipient of fellowships from Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Gottleib Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, among others. Selected public collections include: British Museum, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas; Weatherspoon Gallery, Greensboro, North Carolina; Hood Museum of Art, New Hampshire; Czech National Gallery, Prague; Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic; Macau Art Museum, Macau, China; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Her permanent site specific wall drawings can be found in Macau, China; Kobe, Japan and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Art & Research Interests
Anything that moves demonstrates vitality, life force, energy. This is what interests me and I seek to connect my art to original sources in order to sustain my practice. I am interested in collaborating with those whose practice is essential to their lives.
Keywords: vitality, movement, drawing, performance, contemporary music, international residencies