Donald Evans’s singular artistic vision is featured in the inaugural exhibition of the Vitrine Gallery, a large display case on the lower level of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. Evans was a renowned miniature watercolorist, and his primary output took the form of postage stamps imagined for forty-two fictional countries. He went so far as to conceive details such as native populations, customs, and signature products, all of which fed into the stamp designs. Moving out of the realm of pure fiction, Evans used his handmade stamps to send actual letters through the mail on a number of occasions, which successfully traveled to their destinations, thus giving the stamps—and by extension the fictitious countries they represent—a kind of legitimate, official status.
The presentation format for these paintings refers to the way in which collectible stamps are displayed in showrooms and auction houses. Affixed atop a black board with felt segments, Evans’s stamps come across as rare and highly coveted, which in fact they are, but as paintings rather than legal tender. His works also recall how passionate stamp enthusiasts pursue complete collections: Evans went so far as to create a stamp compendium of his own fabulist travels, titled Catalogue of the World. While this exhibition is limited in scope, these stamps and articles of mail act as portals to the imaginary global network of countries developed by the artist, and invite viewers to imagine these distant locations along with him.
Donald Evans was born in 1945 in Morristown, New Jersey. He graduated from Cornell University and became an architectural designer for Richard Meier and Associates in New York. He maintained his practice up until his untimely death at the young age of 32, in 1977.
Donald Evans is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Marc-Olivier Wahler, Director. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Alan and Rebecca Ross endowed exhibitions fund and the MSU Broad’s general exhibitions fund. Additional support is provided by Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York.