In April 2014, Robert Olsen, an acclaimed painter of somber, luminous cityscapes and still lifes, died of a heart attack in his sleep. He was 44. At the time, Olsen was engaged in a print project with his New York gallery, Planthouse—part of series of works he had been making of freeway overpasses. Olsen lived and worked in California, where freeways are a state-defining cliché, but Olsen’s were different: bereft of cars, people or legible signage, they are formal arrangements of concrete and shadow, lonely and cool, elegiac. They are places made by people for people, which all the people have left.
Robert Olsen, Untitled (Overpass) (2016)
- Five-color screenprint, 9 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches. With an essay by Sarah Jorgensen. Edition of 30. Printed by Brad Ewing at Grenfell Press, New York. Published by Planthouse, New York. $1,000.