Joe Overstreet


Joe Overstreet, Fire Dance, 1972. Courtesy: Eric Firestone Gallery, New York

Joe Overstreet, Fire Dance, 1972. Courtesy: Eric Firestone Gallery, New York

Eric Firestone Gallery presents Joe Overstreet, Flight Pattern Paintings 1970-72.

The installation will be an opportunity to revisit a radical body of work made nearly 50 years ago. Many of these pieces have not been seen since a seminal solo exhibition in 1972 in Houston, Texas. The exhibition was catalyzed by the art patrons Dominique and John de Menil, as part of their efforts to desegregate the art world, Rice University, and effect social change in troubled Houston neighborhoods.

Overstreet’s paintings are un-stretched canvases installed with ropes threaded through grommets and attached to the ceiling, wall, and floor. The language of geometric abstract painting is re-imagined into monumental installations that tell stories about the painful realities of African American history, and also read as symbols of hope, flight, and aspiration.

The installation will present a group of shaped umber-colored canvases, which were included in the Rice University exhibition. These works are like talismans or shields, with short lengths of rope that attach to the wall, extending the space of the work into force fields. Overstreet has been committed to social and political causes, rather than art world trends. He is recognized as a significant arts community organizer. In 1973, he and his partner Corrine Jennings established Kenkeleba House on East 2nd Street, a studio building and gallery that has presented innumerable exhibitions of work by artists of color and women.

Over the past several decades, Overstreet has been a relentless experimenter –investigating both the spatial and textural possibilities of painting, and also complex cultural histories. In revisiting this pioneering body of work by Overstreet, we begin to recognize the impact of his contribution andextent of his innovation.