Los Angeles

Connor Everts

Zora Gallery

The day following the opening of the Connor Everts exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints, “Studies in Desperation,” the Zora Gallery was visited by five law enforcement officers who requested the removal of three “offensive” works in the window, and thirteen others on view in the gallery. This action was prompted by a so-called “deluge of protests received at headquarters.” The gallery complied but later, after consultation with attorneys, the pictures were restored to the walls but only after issuing a bulletin to the invaders that this was going to be done. The gallery was in turn warned that arrests would be made. None were, for the attack suddenly shifted from the exhibiting institution and directed its attention on the artist.

Probably this change of tactics was prompted by an incredibly poor record for convictions obtained by these dedicated guardians of public morals before the courts. Rather than attack the middlemen—galleries, theaters, bookstores, etc.—they now turn to the producers of the questionable material, the artists, film-makers, and authors.

The pictures stayed on view for the duration of the scheduled exhibition period and the charge against Mr. Everts was reduced to an isolated item—a poster which had been prepared for the window of the gallery to advertise the exhibition within. Curiously enough, the formerly objectionable works became respectable once again and were approved for public viewing. The entire display completed its run at Zora Gallery and then opened at Scripps College in Claremont without further incident.

At this writing, Everts is scheduled for trial in September. A terrifying prospect to be considered here is that if Everts were to be found guilty as charged, through some unforseen miscarriage of justice, his home and studio could be subjected to search by the same officers, and anything on the premises that might be arbitrarily labeled offensive could be confiscated and probably destroyed at will regardless of their importance as works of art.

It would be comforting to be able to point out that the offending pictures are significantly important art documents, comparable to Goya’s comments on war and man’s inhumanity to man. To be able to do so would compound the enormity of the indignity and injustice of the police action—negating a constitutional right to make such judgments for ourselves. But while the works in question are powerfully conceived and executed, and contain occasionally awesome statements, they are still too derivative in style, too vague in commentary, and perhaps too subjective in concept to merit universal appeal.

The standard elements are employed—twisted agonized figures, naked bleached bones, screaming stricken faces, dangling or gaping genitalia, all executed in brooding greys, blacks and whites, and the rust colors of ancient decay. And though Everts contributes a very personal drama etched with grief (the assassination of President Kennedy), and drenches the pictures with an acrid terror and desperation in Redonish methodology, they are nonetheless familiar, and being familiar incapable of shocking or offending.

The importance of this exhibition will not be its contents but rather that it initiated yet another case history for the lawbooks—unless it is wisely thrown out of court before the trial.

Curt Opliger