Robert Overby | Absence As Presence: Trace, Erasure, Eradication, and Lack
Robert Overby’s milk chocolate Door Stop was first cast on 3 May 1973. Initially cast were 6 “door stops”, later recorded as eaten by Overby and his friends. Only one original still exists today which was left by Overby inside its original latex rubber mould.
The exhibition Absence As Presence: Erasure, Trace, Eradication, and Lack, focuses on that which should be there but isn’t, and that which shouldn’t 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 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 object’s 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 some how 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 Overby’s practice.
Overby’s work typifies the open and heterogenic attitude characteristic of 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 Overby’s work include, Robert Overby, Works: 1969-1987, curated by Alessandro Rabottini, Le Consortium, Dijon, France; Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway; GAMeC Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contempranea, Bergamo, Italy; Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland , 2014-2015, accompanied by the first monograph on the artists work. Other exhibitions include “Robert Overby Parallel: 1978-1969”, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2000, “Robert Overby: What Else is Important: Paintings 1981-1989”, Luckman Museum, Los Angeles, 2004.
Overby’s work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; San Deigo Museum of Contemporary Art; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
PhotoCredit (exept Living Room, Paul’s Place, 1971 – taken from the gallery website – and Door Stop): http://atpdiary.com/exhibit/robert-overby-gamec/