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Absence As Presence: Erasure, Trace, Eradication, and Lack

Marc Selwyn Fine Art is pleased to announce an exhibition of work by Los Angeles artist Robert Overby, curated by Linda Burnham.    

The exhibition Absence As Presence: Erasure, Trace, Eradication, and Lack, focuses on that which should be there but isnʼt, and that which shouldnʼt be there but is still felt, seen or heard.  A mark, a gesture, or a moment can be captured and frozen, becoming a signifier for a person, action, or time that has been lost but is still prevalent within history. Gilles Deleuze recognizes the desire “to distinguish essence from appearance, intelligible from the sensible, idea from image, original from copy, and model from simulacrum.”  In each of these binaries, the first term refers to some form of presence or truth, while the second recognizes its embodiment as removed from that presence.

In 1970, Robert Overby referred to his work as “odd things in motion.” This “motion” does not necessarily speak of an actual kinetic motion, but of the mental or emotional movement that an objectʼs presence can contain. Absence can often affect us more acutely than that which may be concretely present. Overby was fully aware of this:

As I diagram a leaf, I realize it as the evidence of a process – one that lends some sense of belonging to me. I am driven to understand my relationship to this process. My sense of being registers a greater sum than my objective evaluation.  Do I impose meaning that does not exist? Am I cast to that mold? The act of thought somehow separates me from my goal.  Even now I feel indecisive in my purpose.  The grey fingers of my mind disappear into the past. Though removed, I do not feel alien.  My sense of belonging has not diminished. The feeling warms me and I wonder if grey fingers and the leaf are not one. (Sketchbook, 1970)

Utilizing a range of media, including painting, drawing, lithography, printmaking, installation, sculpture, and photography, and exploring a multitude of perspectives, this exhibition groups together a selection of work spanning his entire artistic career, from 1970 to 1992, and connects these common themes throughout Overbyʼs practice.  

Overbyʼs work typifies the open and heterogenic attitude that characterizes art making in Los Angeles, even today. Although he lived most of his life in Los Angeles, a brief stint in New York in the early 70s, two shows at John Weber Gallery (1971) with Carl Andre, Robert Smithson and others, and an association with Lucio Amelio in Milan played a formative role in his views.

Recent solo exhibitions of Overbyʼs work include, Robert Overby, Works: 1969-1987, curated by Alessandro Rabottini, Le Consortium, Dijon, France; Bergen Kunsthall, Norway; GAMeC Galleria dʼArte Moderna e Contempranea, Bergamo, Italy; Centre dʼArt Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland , 2014-2015, accompanied by the first monograph on the artistʼs work. Other exhibitions include Robert Overby Parallel: 1978-1969, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2000, Robert Overby: What Else is Important, Paintings 1981-1989, The Luckman Gallery, Los Angeles, 2004.  

Overbyʼs work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

We are also pleased to announce the monograph Robert Overby: Works 1969-1987 published in conjunction with the artistʼs traveling retrospective in Europe with its last venue at Le Consortium in Dijon, France, after stops in Bergen, Norway; Bergamo, Italy; and Geneva, Switzerland. Copies of the monograph will be available at the opening reception and during the entire run of the exhibition at the gallery.  

In addition, the first ever estate editioned artwork Door Stop, 1973/2015, cast in milk chocolate in an edition of 100, will be presented and available for purchase at the opening reception and during the show. Documented in his self-published catalogue 336 to 1: August 1973-July 1969, Robert Overbyʼs milk chocolate Door Stop was first cast on 3 May 1973. Initially cast were six “door stops”, later recorded as eaten by Overby and his friends. The one original Door Stop still existing today, which was left by Overby inside its original latex rubber mould, will also be on view in the exhibition.  

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