January 17 - April 5, 2009
Opening Reception:  Saturday, January 17, 6-8pm

Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art
Pepperdine University
24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90263
General information: (310) 506-4851
Museum Contact: Michael Zakian, Director
(310) 506-7257
Group Tours Contact: Carol Kmiec, ARTSReach Coordinator and Museum Assistant
(310) 506-4766
Web site,
Museum Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 A.M. - 5 P.M.; Closed Mondays and major holidays
No admission fee

Robert Dowd, Vincent Dollar, 1965, oil on canvas, 18 x 36 inches.
Collection of Joni and Monte Gordon, Los Angeles.

Malibu, Calif.--The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University is pleased to present Robert Dowd: Pop Art Money, which will be on view from January 17 through April 5, 2009. This is the first posthumous museum exhibition devoted to this seminal Los Angeles artist.

There will be an opening reception on Saturday, January 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. There is no admission charge and the public is invited to attend.

Robert Dowd (1936-1995) was one of the original Los Angeles Pop artists. His groundbreaking paintings of money and postage stamps were at the center of the California Pop Art movement of the 1960s.

He moved to L.A. in 1961 and immediately began producing his most famous works--bold and provocative paintings of United States currency. His money paintings were and still are celebrated for capturing the essence of the Pop Art movement. During this vibrant time artists freely drew inspiration from ordinary objects and everyday events, elevating them to the category of fine art.

In 1962 curator Walter Hopps included Dowd--along with Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Phillip Hefferton, Joe Goode, Ed Ruscha, and Wayne Thiebaud--in the landmark exhibition New Paintings of Common Objects at the Pasadena Museum of Art. This important, historic show was the first museum exhibition of Pop Art in the nation.

"Dowd was part of a generation that includes some of California's best known contemporary artists, such as Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston, and Joe Goode, but his work has been unjustly overlooked in recent years," said Michael Zakian, director of the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art. "I hope that this exhibition fosters a positive reappraisal of his achievement and career."

Dowd freely altered and reinterpreted money in his paintings. In one group, he substituted portraits of artists for presidents, resulting in his Vincent Dollar (featuring Van Gogh's likeness) and Picasso Dollar. These works were rendered in the style of those painters, creating an homage to his cultural heroes. He shifted scale, enlarging small bills to widths reaching three to six feet, sometimes larger. He often played word games with inscriptions, adding or deleting letters to create ironic statements about governmental authority. His money paintings not only celebrate the ubiquitous, democratic nature of money but also mock the pretensions of official, bureaucratic society.

While Dowd's currency paintings have been seen as having simple, commonplace subjects, they also have a deeper, more philosophical dimension centered on the function and nature of money. These works explore the social and psychological meaning of money as a measure of value, achievement, and worth. Dowd's art anticipated recent developments in the art market, where art and commerce have become inseparable.

Not surprisingly, his hand-painted versions of currency caught the attention of federal agents and he was detained for counterfeiting. Although formal charges were not brought, the agents threatened to confiscate paintings from galleries and collectors.

Dowd was born in 1936 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He served in the United States Marine Corps and after his discharge in 1957 returned to Michigan and entered the Society of Arts and Crafts/Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. He first received national attention as part of Detroit's Young Artists Group.

In 1960 he moved to San Francisco and began his first images of postage stamps. In 1961 he moved to Los Angeles and started his currency paintings. He was close friends with artist John Altoon and the two opened a short-lived art supply store in Los Angeles.

Dowd continued to create currency and stamp paintings until 1970, when he left California for New York. In the 1970s and 1980s, he worked in a style influenced by the surrealism of Rene Magritte, resulting in metaphysical images.

Robert Dowd: Pop Art Money was curated by Michael Zakian, director of the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog featuring an analytical essay on Dowd's art as a reflection of economic issues in the United States.

The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art was dedicated in 1992 and offers an exhibition program focusing on recent and historic art of the United States, with a special emphasis on California art since 1960. Previous exhibitions have featured the work of such artists as Dale Chihuly, Jim Dine, Sam Francis, Claes Oldenburg, Agnes Pelton, and Wayne Thiebaud. It is named for its benefactor, the late Frederick R. Weisman, who was regarded as one of the country's leading collectors of 20th-century art.

Works are on view at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art in the Gregg G. Juarez Gallery, West Gallery, and Ron Wilson-Designer Gallery. Exhibitions and dates are subject to change.

The museum, located on Pepperdine's main campus at 24255 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, Calif., is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is closed on Mondays and major holidays. There is no admission charge.

For more information, call (310) 506-4851, or visit

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