media: found paper objects, some purposefully non-archival, including book pages and coloring book pages In this work, O’Reilly combines a black and white image of a mountain peak, a vintage photo of a young girl and a horse, a coloring book page, and two Goya etchings of birds of prey, against a fragmented background. His loosely sketched outlines, intertwined with the coloring book page underneath, are suggestive of rocky, mountainous terrain. These, along with expressionistic splashes of watercolor, bind these disparate elements into an image that speaks to nature—both domesticated and untamed. The horse and well-dressed young rider posing for the photograph, reference nature restrained, while O’Reilly’s distinctive style can be seen as an example of its wild, unbridled state. He draws freely upon a variety of sources and combines them in such a way that they melt into one another. The watercolor bleeds into the vintage photograph on the left, just as the ground in the photo continues past the frame with the pastel-colored fragment on the right. The bird in the lower left is aligned with the coloring book page in such a way that it appears to have giant talons, with which it grips the branch-like object below. The vivid colors and abstract sketching in the work also speak to the artist’s passion and creative freedom—a freedom echoed in the representations of the mountains and soaring birds. The dark horse in the title of the work can be seen as referring to the horse in the photo, or in a more abstract way, to the artist himself. Relatively unknown for much of his career, O’Reilly became increasingly successful following his inclusion in the 1995 Whitney Biennial. A “dark horse,” of the exhibition, O’Reilly’s incredibly inventive compositions brought him critical acclaim and allowed him to reach new heights—similar to those illustrated by the soaring birds and the mountain peak.
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