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Impulsive / Decisive

Works from the O'Neill Collection


Impulsive/Decisive is a work in progress, as are most living collections. John O'Neill, Principal/Creative Director of Conduit, a Grand Rapids-based design studio, has been gathering objects since childhood but shifted to art collecting while in college. As a result, the works in O'Neill's collection have been acquired with an intuitive clarity, gathering focus over time. On the surface, these works blur lines between art and design, but they also serve as social connectors, question our notions of value, create order from perceived chaos, and provide an immaterial richness.


These works are an extension of O'Neill's vision and identity, adorning the walls of his home and office but never viewed in their entirety. Undisturbed, they are private and self-contained. However, part of a curator's job is to destabilize the audience by creating possibilities for new meanings to occur. Curating is not a static process but rather a dynamic one. It shifts in response to the dialogue from collaborating, placing specific works together, and creating new narratives and connections. While many objects make up a collection, their histories continue to grow when displayed in new ways or looked at as a whole. For that reason, this exhibition doesn't focus on when O'Neill acquired each work but centers upon the more extensive conversations had when pieces are combined and grouped.


As departure points for viewing, consider the representation of water, the fluidity of materials, and the physicality of the queer male body. And also recognize that beauty is never supplemental. Then remember that removing these works from their home and displaying them in a public space results in a level of vulnerability inherent to showing one's collection and prompts a more profound impulse to recognize our shared intimacies, experiences, and memories. After all, we are what we collect.


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