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Hallwalls features new work by OGRE, John Peña

Every day for the last 10 years, Pittsburgh-based artist John Peña has written a letter to the ocean.

The ocean has not yet responded – at least, not explicitly – but Peña keeps sending his letters as a sort of ritual. He also draws one cartoon a day, which he collects on his website Daily Geology as a record of his ranging curiosity about the world and a motivation to keep making work.

Now, Peña is bringing a new body of work to Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center (341 Delaware Ave.), where an exhibition featuring a series of oversized word balloons and videos opens Friday alongside new work by the Cincinnati-based artist and former Buffalonian known as OGRE. The shows are the first since Hallwalls wrapped up its successful, seven-part “Amid/In Western New York” survey and represent a return to form for the gallery.

“In certain works,” Hallwalls’ website reads, “Peña illustrates a desire to engage and sometimes emulate the natural world, while in other works, he teases out the awkward reality and unavoidable pathos of the human condition.”

OGRE’s show, “Hareuhticks,” features new paintings in the artist’s bold, graphic style that honor historical figures whose lives or works have been deemed heretical.

“Depicted in a fluid style that draws upon illustration and tagging techniques filtered through a fine art practice, OGRE’s library of hareuhticks includes portraits of Charles Darwin, Joan of Arc, Pussy Riot, Edward Snowden, Nikola Tesla, Yoko Ono, Malala Yousafzai, Jack Kevorkian, Galileo Galilei and Miley Cyrus.”

The exhibitions open with a reception at 8 p.m. Friday and run through June 24. Call 854-1694 or visit hallwalls.org.

– Colin Dabkowski