PASADENA, CA.- The Norton Simon Museum
presents an exhibition of Studies in Desperation, Connor Evertss landmark lithographic suite from late 1963. Comprised of nine powerful lithographs, in which mangled and malformed figures are confined in a womb-like space, Studies in Desperation was created in part as Evertss response to the Kennedy assassination. The Museums edition of the suite, number 4 of 20, was donated in 2003 by Robin C. Park and D. Robert Park, and this is the first time all nine lithographs are on view together here. Its installation commemorates the 50th anniversary of its creation.
Connor Everts (American, b. 1926) has long been a leading figure in the Los Angeles art sceneas an artist, a teacher and one of the founders of the Los Angeles Printmaking Society. In 1957, Everts started Exodus Gallery in San Pedro, which, in addition to being an exhibition space, served as a place for the member-artists of the gallery to have access to etching and lithography presses. It was here that Everts published Studies in Desperation, created shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and at the end of a year which saw the United Statess increased involvement in Vietnam and the dramatic protests and calls for civil rights. Evertss use of violent imagery and gruesome nature imparts a desperation regarding the social issues of the time: partially formed figures tear and writhe; a limb becomes a torso, a phallus, a finger; rib bones break the surface as teeth gnaw on vertebrae; shadowy forms retreat and emerge from dark caves; forms are mangled and difficult to distinguish. In a 2003 interview, Everts reflected on his Studies in Desperation series: I was thinking about the state of the world and the view of the world from the womb. What if someone looked out from the womb and decided not to be born until it was a better world?
Evertss Studies in Desperation played an important role in the debate over the right of artistic expression. While the artworks were on exhibition at Zora Gallery in 1964, the L.A. District Attorney filed charges of obscenity against Everts, owing to the imagery depicted in the series. The artist was arrested, and the case was brought to court. The first trial was dismissed in a hung jury. After a second trial, the artist was finally acquitted in 1965. This verdict and the support Everts received from the L.A. art community set a precedent for the freedom of expression for artists.
Studies in Desperation: A Suite by Connor Everts honors the 50th anniversary of the works creation, the spirit it represented and the impact that this artist and his series had on the art world in Los Angeles. The exhibition is organized by Tom Norris, Curatorial Associate at the Norton Simon Museum.