Recent Acquisition: Robert Olsen Papers

The Beinecke Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of a collection of papers by and related to the artist Robert Olsen. The collection includes Olsen’s writings about his work as well as dozens of notebooks and sketchbooks documenting both his creative practice and his daily activities. The collection also includes materials and correspondence related to Untitled (Overpass), a print that was in process at the time of Olsen’s death in 2014, including an unfinished painting related to the project. 

Robert Olsen is best known for his oil paintings of features of urban landscapes—freeways, overpasses, bus stops, abandoned gas pumps. “The things I paint are everywhere in urban areas,” the artist wrote; “I am interested in similarity more than difference, so when I go somewhere, I look for those things that are common to all cities.” Describing his artistic process and body of work, Olsen wrote: “I am an artist…I mostly paint, and I paint oil on panel. I paint urban objects in an isolated space which generally appears as a nighttime scene. …I paint, draw, keep notes and make videos.”

Olsen received his BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts in 1998 and his MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2002. He was named one of L.A.’s top painters under forty-five by the Los Angeles Times in 2007. His work has been featured in many group exhibitions and in solo shows at Black Dragon Society, LA; Plane Space, NY; G Fine Art, Washington DC; and Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver and Toronto, Canada. His last solo show was L.A. Freeways at Planthouse, NY; his last group show, “I, II, III”, was at South of Sunset, LA. Robert Olsen died of a heart attack in April 2014; he was forty-four years old.  A selection of Olsen’s oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings will be featured at Volta, March 1-5, 2017, in New York.

Robert Olsen’s notebooks and writings were donated to the Beinecke Library by Robert and Sandy Olsen; materials related to Untitled (Overpass) were donated by Robert and Sandy Olsen and by Planthouse Gallery. The collection will be open for research later this year; please contact Beinecke Library Curators George Miles or Nancy Kuhl with questions about this collection.

More information:

Robert Olsen at Volta, March 2017

Robert Olsen’s Untitled (Overpass)

From Robert Olsen's Notebooks at Beiencke Library

by Nancy Kuhl
February 27, 2017


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