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 Robert Dowd  (1936 - 1996)

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Lived/Active: California/Michigan      Known for: pop replications, sculpture

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Ad Code: 3
Robert Dowd
from Auction House Records.
Picasso Dollar
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Robert Dowd is most recognized for his paintings of United States currency and stamps. His style was loosely based on the Pop movement of the 1960's and abstract expressionist ideas. Dowd was born in 1936 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He attended high school in Detroit, Michigan and after graduating he served in the United States Marine Corps until 1957. When he returned to Detroit, Dowd enrolled in the Center for Creative Study where experimentation was encouraged. He developed his own style during his academic career and admired the work of Jasper Johns and Willem de Kooning.

In 1960 as a member of the Young Artists Group in Detroit, Dowd shared ideas with fellow member Phillip Hefferton. The two artists, limited by their inadequate studio space, believed their careers would flourish in another location. Dowd decided to relocate to San Francisco, California. He moved there in 1960 and enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute. Dowd became fascinated by the style of nineteenth-century engravings and the iconography associated with contemporary advertising. Then, feeling uninspired in San Francisco, he moved south to Los Angeles in 1960. Dowd and his friend Hefferton came up with the idea of painting United States currency. Undecided as to whom had the idea first, they eventually parted and went their separate ways in 1962.

Dowd remained in Los Angeles where he married and moved into a larger workspace. He created his first currency painting in 1962, setting a future pattern for his signature style. Dowd was interested in the visual complexity of American currency and was fascinated by the power it had as a symbol. He painted the currency with detail but also allowed himself a certain freedom of movement and expression within his pieces. He often altered the lettering on the bill to read differently, jumbling the letters to create a play on words or puns. He also used a more obvious brush stroke to paint the presidential portrait within the bill, and added color to the otherwise monochromatic money.

Dowd continued to work with currency as a subject, but also began using stamps as subjects. The varied themes represented by stamps provided Dowd with endless source material. Not unlike his currency paintings, he based his new paintings off of the actual stamp, muting the image slightly with his brushwork. He was included in an exhibition in 1962 at the Pasadena Art Museum called 'New Paintings of Common Objects'. The following year his work was shown at the Oakland Art Museum, and in 1964 at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, both in California. Dowd moved to New York in 1970, and his work was out of the spotlight for a time. There was a resurgence of attention to it in the 1980's, however, as part of a fresh interest in neo-pop.

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