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Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible

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Robert Boyd reviews the exhibition Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible at the Menil Collection, Houston, TX, on view through August 18, 2013.

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."

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