Planthouse is pleased to exhibit drawings and paintings by Robert Olsen (1969-2014) at the VOLTA NY fair, March 1-5, Booth F08. The works on display at VOLTA afford an expanded understanding of Olsen’s interest in California freeways and other quotidian monuments of the American road. In 2007 the Los Angeles Times named Robert Olsen as one of L.A.’s top painters under forty five. A series of studies in graphite, watercolor and gouache reveal nascent aesthetic value in the curves, layers and shadows of freeway structures. The works are based on Olsen’s photographs, made over seven drives to and from Sacramento and Los Angeles in 2012.
Olsen contemplated the concrete forms, omitting signs of use, and the serene views recall the dramatic natural landscapes of the western United States. The works on paper will be shown alongside a large painting depicting a brightly lit bus shelter at night, its blank advertising wall a glowing beacon, and the reflective glass walls reminiscent of modernist design. It is isolated in darkness, beautiful in its lonely optimism. Additional paintings focused on elements of gas stations will round out the presentation at Volta. Olsen was interested in the commonalities among freeway architecture, and he searched for the specific design elements imposed by local agencies, but he was equally invested in universality. As he described in an interview with James Verini of the L.A. Times, his deserted scenes aren’t meant to elicit gloom but are rather attempts to “ isolate the ubiquitous.”
Robert Olsen (1969-2014) received his BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts and his MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles. He exhibited widely throughout his career. His last solo show was L.A. Freeways Planthouse, NY, and his last group show was “ I, II, III” , at South of Sunset, LA.