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Robert Overby: What Else Is Important, Paintings 1981-1989
March 27 - May 8, 2004
After a decade as a highly successful, award-winning graphic designer, Robert Overby (1935 - 1993) made a decision to "become an artist" in 1969 while putting together a corporate art collection for CBS Studio Center in Studio City, California. Ever since his time as a student at The Art Institute of Chicago in the 1950s where he studied painting, Overby thought of himself as a painter. In the 1970s, he produced an idiosyncratic range of work that included not only paintings, but also latex casts of architectural elements. In 1973 Robert Overby focused his art practice fully on painting, while continuing to take on various design projects, including a logotype for Toyota in 1977 that is still in use today, and the basketball court graphics for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In the 1980s Overby began to directly incorporate imagery from graphic design into his paintings. (right: Robert Overby, Ducky, 1987, oil on canvas, 84 x 77 inches)
Robert Overby: What else is important, Paintings 1981-1989 will feature more than twenty paintings and works on paper from the period that unexpectedly became the "late" phase of Overby's career. All of the works in this exhibition provoke a contentious dialogue between art and design, a debate that Overby clearly engaged in throughout his entire career. Drawing on sources that include photographs from fashion magazines, catalogs, ads, pornography and illustrations for pocket book covers, Overby's late paintings have much in common with those of James Rosenquist, David Salle, and most intriguingly with the very recent paintings of Jeff Koons. And while the fragmented imagery of Overby's late paintings directly relates to his work in design, for him the final result was very different: in his words, "the philosophy doesn't cross over, but the form does." If graphic design was for Overby an extremely disciplined and valuable form of problem solving, then painting was always a place to complicate meaning for himself and for viewers by remaining -- in his own words -- "an observer, even a voyeur, rather than a moralizer."
In 2000, Overby's works from the late 1960s and 1970s were posthumously exhibited at the UCLA Hammer Museum in a critically acclaimed survey exhibition titled Robert Overby: Parallel, 1969-1978, also organized by Terry R. Myers. Since this pivotal exhibition, several museums have acquired major works by Overby, including The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Robert Overby: What else is important, Paintings 1981-1989 at the Luckman Gallery will be a significant sequel to the Hammer exhibition, but aims to stand out on its own through its focus on the artist's extraordinary body of late paintings and works on paper, almost all of which have not been publicly exhibited since 1989.
Robert Overby: What else is important, Paintings 1981-1989 is curated by Terry R. Myers, a critic and independent curator who currently is a faculty member at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Royal College of Art in London. A color-illustrated brochure will be published specifically for the exhibition, featuring an essay by Myers and an exhibition checklist.
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