Thursday, November 22, 2018

Forrest Bess at Modern Art


There's nothing worse than reading someone heaping praise on Bess, it doesn't work, the paintings deflect it like steel pans, which is why there's so much writing that resorts to retelling the life that was strange and mad and made for a script. The paintings just don't take it. Bess's paintings are artless, direct, and without affect. They are, as Bess stated, more diagrams than self-expression. He called himself a copyist, assuming a representational adherence to the forms. He thought New York Ab-Ex was overly affected: "He suspected that they thought him a hick, while he adopted a disparaging view of what he regarded as their stylistic conceits." Bess was styleless. Forms rarely repeat, each painting seems its own specific unit. Explicitly drawing something but not necessarily that we know what, we look at Bess's with all the perfect inscrutability of art, its search for meaning. A hurricane came through and blew away Bess's home late in his life and he was left to search through the Gulf's mud to find everything in it.

see too: Raoul De Keyser at Inverleith House, Gertrude Abercrombie at Karma