Friday, May 4, 2012

forrest bess very best

Forrest Bess (by Robert Gober)
2012 Whitney Biennial

Forrest Bess (1911-1977) was a fisherman who lived much of his life in isolation on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Still, for twenty mid-century years, he exhibited his paintings at Betty Parsons in New York. But his wish to exhibit his medical works based on the unification of male and female sexuality alongside his paintings was not to be realized in his lifetime. 

Sculptor Robert Gober, who was invited to exhibit at the 2012 Whitney Biennial, chose to submit a curated exhibition that pays homage to Bess, to his wishes, and to a selection of his visionary paintings, journal entries and archival photographs. Where Parsons demurred, Gober's installation offers a breathtaking look at Bess's exhaustive writings on hermaphroditism, alchemy, mythology and mysticism as well as photo documentation of Bess's own self-surgical procedures that morphed him into something of a pseudo-hermaphrodite. 

In a Whitney Biennial mostly devoid of painting (notable exceptions, the stunning Nicole Eisenman installation and brilliant paintings by Andrew Masullo) this is one of the absolute highlights as well as an artistic and curatorial coup for Gober, whose wonderful 2009-10 exhibit, Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield won critical acclaim across the country.  

More thoughts and good links on the Whitney Biennial coming...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great choice of Bess's paintings.