San Francisco

Robert Stevenson

Quay Gallery

Stevenson, a graduate of the U.C.L.A. art department, forsook painting for advanced study in sociology and anthropology. His biography states that he felt the pre-eminence of Abstract-Expressionist painting smothered the art world. A course in psychology rekindled his interest in art and led to his current experiments with optical phenomena.

Encounters with young Los Angeles artists, also disenchanted with the verbosity of Abstract Expressionism led Stevenson to experiment, as they had, with spray techniques. High finish lacquer spraying with a wet-into-wet look is best exemplified in the finishes on customized automobiles and hot-rods seen frequently throughout southern California. The first artist to bring the exoticism of the hot-rod lacquer technique to the art world was Billy Al Bengston. His example was a prime one for Stevenson as he has appropriated Bengston’s sticky-sweet color as well as the central image, a chevron in Bengston’s case, a Maltese cross, or a more personal symbol in Stevenson’s.

Stevenson applies his paint to 1/8” sheets of clear plastic formed into boxes which in some instances are surrounded by other sheets of plastic, making structures. The techniques used to produce the final results include variously, or in combination, sprayed color, hand-painted color, colored plastic, etching or inscribing on the plastic and, finally, the inherent refractive quality of the edges of the sheet plastic.

Stevenson’s boxes are good as far as they go. He should give a lot more attention to craftsmanship than he has to date. The joining of the edges is obviously a problem without metal moulding of some sort. In many of the works the paint is beginning to flake, probably due to the faulty surface adhesion properties of the plastic. Near perfect craft is needed in these works so the viewer may explore completely their color properties without the distraction of poor workmanship.

James Monte