Paul O'Keeffe

(Dublin, Ireland, 1957 - )

Irish, American

Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1957, Paul O’Keeffe attended St. Martin’s School of Art in London (where he studied with modernist sculptor Anthony Caro) and the National College of Art and Design in Dublin.[1] Through a Fulbright Travel Scholarship, he subsequently studied at UCLA, where he received an MFA in 1981. A professor emeritus at Kent State University, O’Keeffe currently lives and works in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.


O’Keeffe’s practice spans across sculpture and installation, with works that may initially appear to be abstract but bear subtle references to meaningful objects laden with personal histories. These connections are at once enigmatic and cerebrally precise.[2] In his work, common domestic items frequently serve as points of departure—the book cover designs, wallpaper and furniture from his childhood in Ireland in the ‘60s and ‘70s; everyday items and magazines found in his father’s small advertising agency in Dublin; objects precious to his mother, who moved to Ireland from Sri Lanka as a teenager; or the accoutrements of the punk music he encountered while in art school in London. In some ways, O’Keeffe’s sculptures can be understood as oblique portraits of his family and surroundings. As an immigrant to the United States, many of his pieces have explored the forms he encountered in radically shifting contexts amid his moves from Dublin to London, to Los Angeles, and finally to Cleveland, Ohio. Since the 1980s, he has worked with a wide range of materials including steel, aluminum, copper, bronze, lead, fiberglass, and Plexiglas, with fabric, wax, canvas, plastic, photographs, prints, and more serving as secondary elements. His works often occupy space in a manner that encourages viewers to examine them from every available vantage point, each of which provides access to additional details.[3]


O’Keeffe has had solo and group exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Dublin, and London, including at White Columns (New York), Temple Bar Gallery and Studios (Dublin), the Cleveland Museum of Art (Ohio), the Akron Art Museum (Ohio), and Dorsky Projects (New York), among others. His work is in public and private collections including The Arts Council of Ireland, Bayer USA (Pittsburgh), Progressive Insurance (Cleveland), Kaiser Permanante (Cleveland), and the Cleveland Public Library.


O’Keeffe is the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2021 Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Excellence Award, which the Ohio Arts Council has also given him on thirteen previous occasions. In 2017, he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. He has also received an Arts Midwest/National Endowment for the Arts Award, a Ford Foundation grant, and awards from the Arts Council of Ireland.


[1] This text is largely drawn and adapted from a biographical sketch on the artist’s personal website: Paul O’Keeffe, “Bio,” https://paulokeeffestudio.com/bio; https://www.frontart.org/artists/okeeffe.

[2] “Screaming Voicelessly to a Distant Silence,” The Sculpture Center, exhibition webpage, 2017, https://sculpturecenter.org/paulokeeffe-2/.

[3] “Screaming Voicelessly to a Distant Silence,” The Sculpture Center.


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