Roughneck Artist

Forrest Bess, Untitled, 1951

Many (Forrest Bess) images have to do with paranoia and violence. In a painting from 1957, railroad tracks rear up into a red sky, and the tail of the tracks is coiled like the rattle of a snake. In the 1959 ”Night Flight,” an army of crescent-shaped eyes flutter out of the darkness like moths. . .

Read all of this article by Michael Brenson, from The New York Times, 1988 here.

More Forrest Bess images and links here.

Posted by Paul Doran

Forrest Bess, Oval (the crown), 1953

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5 thoughts on “Roughneck Artist

  1. Andrew Masullo

    I’ve been involved with Forrest Bess paintings for nearly 30 years. I own a number of his paintings, including the 1951 black and gray painting that has been placed on this very website (placed, I might add, without my consent — often referred to as “No. 31,” but listed here as “Untitled”). Forrest Bess’ paintings are rough-hewn, yet very sensitive snippets from his fascinating mind. They have an elegance that is surprising and on more than one occasion they show his wit and humor. To state that many of his paintings deal with paranoia and violence is to unnecessarily sensationalize him and do him a great disservice. It’s like splashing tabasco sauce all over a beautifully prepared meal.

    Reply
  2. painttube Post author

    Point taken! Our interest in posting about Forrest Bess is only to bring his work to a wider audience. Though relatively little known, Bess has many admirers in Europe who appreciate his unique and inventive work.

    Reply
  3. Farrell Brickhosue

    Years ago the was a major show in Phili introducing an artist named Amsel Kiefer to an American audience. I was a relatively young artist and after viewing these huge operatic works I wondered how it was possible to ever compete with these paintings. The next day back in NYC I was fortunate enough to make it to a show of Forrest Bess’s work, unknown to me at the time, and it was a revelation. Here were these modest, even small sized paintings that leapt off the wall, each one a memorable gem. It reminded me that scale was internal and importance dependent on the value of what was being offered. Forgive my lack of details, it might have been at Betty Parsons or Hirsh Adler..

    Reply
  4. Barrie Karp

    Farrell Brickhouse wrote: “Here were these modest, even small sized paintings that leapt off the wall, each one a memorable gem. It reminded me that scale was internal and importance dependent on the value of what was being offered.”

    Beautiful.

    The idea that scale is internal is both mysterious and resonant.

    Bess’s paintings offer also to me a precision without slickness, a hand I want to see. And reason to believe in painting, and oneself.

    Reply

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