Off-kilter Occult: Hernan Bas

I was excited to see that Hernan Bas’s had a new show up at Lehmann Maupin after first seeing his work at their downtown location in 2009. Even if I hadn’t, I would have been a sucker for the Baudelaire quote in the press release; “The loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” The Miami-born, Detroit-based painter examines lore and legends of the devil in this new group of paintings.

Tartini’s Dream (The Devil’s Trill)
I really enjoy his dense compositions, like the one above where intersecting branches cover every part of the picture plane, as if they are trying to force their way out. His works tend to suggest complex narratives, suggested by the strange landscapes and dramatic little figures as much as their titles.

A Devil’s Bridge
The rainbow of colors used here is representative of his work, and the very bright and light hues he uses manage to seem subsumed into his overall dark composition. I love the figure in the foreground looking out over the water, while a shadowy figure lurks under the bridge behind him. It’s cliche, perhaps, but it exists in a vividly colored and slightly off-kilter alternate world.

Detail, A Devil’s Bridge

Detail, A Devil’s Bridge

Recently in a interview Bas said of his more recent work:

The best way that anyone has described the work so far was in an interview with Maurizio Cattelan titled “Something Off,” which really sums up these thoughts again on how I view the more successful aspects of the work—there’s always something off about them, and I strive towards that off-ness whenever I’m painting. It can come from how I render the figures or skewing the scale; something just always has to be a little wrong. I don’t want to make right painting. 

More from his interview with Art21 here.

A Satanist on a Tuesday

“Occult Contemporary” is up at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in Chelsea through April 21.

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