• Untitled, 2016, by William J. O’Brien

  • Untitled, 2016, by William J. O’Brien
  • williamobrien_730-3
    Untitled, 2016, by William J. O’Brien

Get lost. There’s a lot of meaning you can tack on to the phrase, not always positive. But when you’re viewing The Protectors, artist William J. O’Brien’s exhibit at New York’s Marianne Boesky Gallery, those two words come to symbolize a deliriously enjoyable art-consuming state. You get lost in his works, in the mask-like textured bronze sculptures — is that a smile, you wonder? — as well as the hypnotic pattern-heavy drawings in cool, calm blues.

Once you discover the inspiration lies in Tibetan Buddhism and the deity Mahākāla, who’s known as a protector (hence the exhibit name), things start to click into place. Mahākāla is timeless, dimensionless, an extinguisher, a void. O’Brien’s works are equally free-form — try not to fall into a vacuum tracing the repetitive geometry of his drawings with your eyes, lines winding into arcs into spirals into…

But even without the Buddhist insight, the exhibit still resonates. There’s something delightfully non-intellectual about the art; it’s primal, instinctual, not overthought or overwrought. You can’t really “read” anything into his drawings because they’re so amorphous and abstracted (and just a bit psychedelic). So you’re left with your own emotional response and reflections. To quote a line from O’Brien’s artist statement: “Direct experience. Being surprised. Startled. That is art.”

What will his enigmatic works stir up in you? Stop by the show before it closes on February 4th and find out.