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Profiles in custody

14 July 2017 – 22 September 2017

Profiles in custody, 14 July 2017 – 22 September 2017

Josh Lilley is pleased to present Ruairiadh O’Connell’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.

O’Connell’s practice exists between control and powerlessness. He combines rigorous thematic research with material play and experimentation, revealing, in both subject and execution, the limits in directing one’s own destiny. The three series of work in Profiles in Custody—elaborate rubber-painted wall works, patterned plaster reliefs and foam impression sculptures—explore the way the world wears upon us, and how we cannot help but reveal our true nature. With dusted fingerprints and casting techniques borrowed directly from police forensics, incriminating traces punctuate the scene. All is revealed.

In Gothic architecture, the chevron served a specific moral purpose. Religious buildings contained lessons in their carved embellishments, and the chevron was an essential form expressing the highs and lows along the path of life. Tiers of rippling zig-zag mouldings around the arch of a church door welcomed pilgrims with the understanding that man is fallible, and prone to do wrong as well as right.

The rubber chevron design on the sole of an Air Jordan shoe proved to be crucial physical evidence in the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, leading to the arrest of Aaron Hernandez, a 22-year-old rising star athlete for the New England Patriots. The pattern of wear on Hernandez’s shoe formed a profile of the suspect as distinct as a fingerprint. The shoe was the man; it bore his weight and the way he walked the world.

Profiles in Custody explores this architecture of morality. The shaped linen wall-works in this exhibition are reverse painted in pools of hot-tinted rubber, with areas of translucent chevron patterns imprinted on the face. Areas of chance meet careful finishes. The plaster reliefs, cast from sheets of rubber soling, are Op totems that waver between perfection and decay. With this exhibition, O’Connell continues his preoccupation with design as a feature of life that is both incidental and all-powerful—an everyday antagonist and guide. The herringbone design of a shoe sole gives traction, moving us forward while logging our every move in its abrasions.


Ruairiadh O’Connell (b. 1983, Aberdeen, UK) studied at the Städelschule, Frankfurt, from 2008–2011. He has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Project Native Informant and the Zabludowicz Collection, London; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt; and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco, with whom his work is represented. He has participated in group exhibitions at Marianne Boesky Gallery and White Columns, New York; Laura Bartlett Gallery and Josh Lilley, London; MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; the Stedelijk Museum, ’s-Hertogenbosch; and Modern Art, Oxford. He lives and works in London.