Connor Everts Biography

Connor Everts




Connor Everts was born on January 24, 1928 in Bellingham, Washington to an Irish Catholic mother and a father of Mexican and Spanish decent. His father was a labor unionizer and longshoreman. The first few years of Everts' life was spent moving between the major port cities of the Pacific Northwest, before the family settled in Los Angeles. During World War II, Everts served in the U.S. Coast Guard. Afterwards, he attended the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, one of the hubs of the Southern California art scene. Over the next few years, Everts traveled extensively throughout Europe and South America. He furthered his art studies at the University of Washington, Seattle; the Courtauld Institute in London, England; and Mexico City College, where he received a bachelor of fine arts degree. While in Mexico, he befriended social muralist David Alfaro Siquieros and worked as his assistant.

Everts enjoyed early success as an artist. He was awarded a prestigious painting prize from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1955 and regularly exhibited his work at galleries and museums along the West Coast, including one-man shows in San Francisco, the Long Beach Museum of Art, and the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum). In 1956, he founded the Exodus Group and Gallery, a progressive artist cooperative based in San Pedro. More than an exhibition space, Exodus provided a working place for established and emerging artists. Early exhibitions of famed Los Angeles artists Wallace Berman and Ed Kienholz were shown. In 1957 Everts made the controversial move to remount an exhibition of works by Berman at the Exodus Gallery that had just been censored and shut down by police at the Ferus Gallery for breaking the city's anti-obscenity laws.

In 1959, the artist lived and worked in Chile, before coming back to Los Angeles and being appointed as Chairman of the Graphics Department at the Chouinard Art Institute, the school where he had been a student years before. Everts enjoyed being an art educator and over the course of his career, he taught at many universities and art schools across the United States and abroad. In 1963, Everts co-founded and directed the Los Angeles Printmaking Society, an artist-run organization that remains active today.

The following year Everts found himself in the center of one of the most notorious events in Los Angeles art history. In 1964 police raided and shut down an exhibition of his work at the Zora Gallery in Los Angeles. On display were a series of 9 lithographs titled Studies of Desperation. These works were created in response to the chaos of the times following the assassination of President Kennedy. Reflecting on the series, the artist said the images were his renderings of someone looking out from the womb and choosing not to be born until the world was a better place. While these works are now widely recognized as a sophisticated and engaging work of art that embody the psychic and political turmoil of the era, at the time these prints were considered offensive and vulgar. Everts was arrested and tried for obscenity. The outraged Los Angeles art community united and rallied behind Everts in support. After a second trial, the first one was dismissed in a hung jury, Everts was exonerated. Although he was not convicted, Everts was terminated from his teaching position at Chouinard. He also suffered a subsequent beating by police that caused permanent nerve damage to his drawing hand.

Everts persevered however, and during the late 1960s and 1970s, he was a guest artist and instructor at the San Francisco Art Institute, University of Southern California, and California Institute of Technology. He spent time working in Japan in 1968, traveled and lectured extensively throughout Europe, and spent 5 years beginning in 1976 as Artist in Residence at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.

The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery mounted a major retrospective of his work in 1983, and another retrospective was held in 2004 at the El Camino College Art Gallery in Torrance. From 2011 to 2013, Everts' work was featured in several exhibitions across Southern California as part of the Getty's initiative, Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945 – 1980, including at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, Norton Simon Museum, Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, and the Cardwell Jimmerson Gallery in Culver City. In 2013, the 50th anniversary of his Studies in Desperation suite was honored with an exhibition at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.

Connor Everts died at his home in Torrance, California on April 24, 2016.