Boyd writes: " ...whether we understand the symbols or not, they tell us one very important thing–Bess was no formalist. He isn’t trying to arrange colors and shapes in an interesting, aesthetically pleasing way. I see his work as a compulsion, a need to get what he was seeing in his mind down on canvas... This kind of painting–symbolic, Jungian, mythic–was almost a movement in the days before Abstract Expressionism rose. Artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko dabbled in this sort of primitive surrealist symbology. Think of Pollock’s Male and Female (1942) or The She Wolf (1943), for example. It’s hard to say that Bess was a part of that tradition since he was so isolated, but the works have a lot of similarities. Pollock and Rothko moved on. For Bess, contending with his visions was a life-long pursuit."
Caleb De Jong reviews the an exhibition of paintings by Forrest Bess at Christie's, New York, on view through April 3, 2012.
De Jong writes: "Supporting himself as a fisherman in the Gulf, Bess believed his work's symbols were descended from a Universal principle and could be understood by all... Bess, perhaps, believed his mythology more than most. Like any artist, however, [his] work stands on its own strengths independent of any invented or universal imperative. Formally bold and stylistically direct... Bess' work comes off as fresh and immediate."
Robert Boyd posts a video of a Forrest Bess painting being appraised on PBS's Antiques Roadshow. The video is notable for the juxtaposition of the appraiser's helpful art historical context and the personal comments by the owner who was a friend of Bess and received the painting as a gift.
In the video the painting's owner describes details from Bess' life and describes Bess' visionary process: "During the day he'd take naps and you'd see him wake up and he'd write something in the book and go back to sleep - then he'd take that and put it on the canvas."
Paul Doran's post about painter Forrest Bess includes a link to Michael Brenson's article Forrest Bess: Desire Ruled His Vision as well as a link to the Forrest Bess website, a great resource on the artist that includes paintings, letters, articles, and more.
James Kalm creates an in depth to of video tour of paintings by Forrest Bess recently on view at Christie's and at the Whitney Biennial, on view through May 27, 2012.
Kalm's video includes fantastic close-ups of Bess' paintings. He notes that Bess is "one of the most mythic and eccentric American painters of the Twentieth Century... this program records over twenty-six minutes of paintings, possibly documenting twenty-five percent of his life's output."
In the first installment of a blog series, John Yau provides background on painter Forrest Bess. Yau focuses on Bess' background and the formation of the 'visionary' philosophy behind Bess' art.
Yau quotes a statement by Bess: "I term myself a visionary artist for lack of a better word. Something seen otherwise than by ordinary sight. I can close my eyes in a dark room and if there is no outside noise or attraction, plus, if there is no conscious effort on my part - then I can see color, lines, patterns, and forms that make up my canvases. I have always copied these arrangements without elaboration."
In the second part of his essay Without Elaboration, John Yau traces the history of Forrest Bess' rise from obscurity to recognition.
Yau describes Forrest Bess' influence on subsequent generations of painters noting: "Amidst all the hoopla about the return to painting, specifically figuration (and the overheated frenzy about Neo-Expressionism), Bess offered an alternative, particularly to painters interested in abstraction." He also connects Bess to the Abstract Expressionist painters who "wanted to make a painting that was naked, a work stripped down to its essentials. They were in crisis because they wanted their work to go beyond aesthetic issues... Although Bess had little to do with his peers, he too wanted to make a painting that was naked, one that could serve as a surrogate for his conflicted mind and body."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.