Forrest Bess

January 01, 2018, 10:31am

You Had Me At Hello: 150 Contemporary Artworks That Altered My Consciousness - Part 1

I look at a lot of art. Some of it good, some of it bad. Every once in a while, I come across artwork that fundamentally changes me, even if I don’t understand it at the time. A friend of mine recently asked me which works had had the greatest impact on me over the years, so I compiled my thoughts. This is not a greatest hits list and many artists I love are not included in it. These are all works that have been, for whatever reason, seared into my brain. To be honest, there are a number of artists on this list whose overall practice I am not a particular fan of, yet, they got to me at least once. – Steven Zevitas, Publisher

Listed under: Art World, Noteworthy

July 15, 2014, 9:25am

Seeing Things Invisible: Forrest Bess at the Berkeley Art Museum

Forrest Bess never made a living as an artist. He spent  most of his working life as a bait fisherman off the Texas coast making meager wages and living in ramshackle conditions. Yet he navigated the New York art world with relative ease. He exhibited his work at Betty Parsons Gallery along other artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman. He held a lifelong correspondence with notable art historian and critic Meyer Shapiro. And his work was purchased by distinguished art collectors like John de Menil. All the while Bess felt marginalized, perceiving that the artists of his generation thought of him as nothing more than a hick.


Forrest Bess | Before Man, 1952–53; oil on canvas; 8-3/4 x 22-3/4 in.; Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger. Photo: Jim Frank.

Bess, then, was a man of dualisms, at once a rugged roughneck in the oil fields of Texas and a deep thinker who corresponded with Carl Jung. He was both a supremely accomplished painter and an isolated fisherman who struggled with alcohol and mental illness. Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible, on view at the Berkeley Art Museum through September 14, presents Bess’ paintings alongside an archive of historical material that shed light on the artist’s life. -- Matt Smith Chavez, San Francisco Contributor

Listed under: Review

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