Dubbed “bright young people” or “bright young things” by the media that sensationalized their antics and lavish lifestyle, and later in books such as Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London’s Jazz Age by D.J. Taylor, the high society group was extensively documented by photographer Cecil Beaton, whose images were a primary influence of Bas’ works. For the artist, who has long examined queer male themes found throughout modern history in his work, the characters and settings exemplify the recent past when queerness became a bourgeois privilege—accepted as charming affect rather than criminal act—for a class of young men coming of age following the loss of an older, more “masculine” generation in the war.
Ranging in scale from small, intimate works on paper to large canvases in muted colors with pops of pastel hues, this body of work focuses on general scenes of leisure: the day-to-day of society life, debauched nights, and intimate exchanges between imagined players. Formally, Bas distorts the conventional pictorial field by compressing the foreground and background, and by altering the perceived depth of the spaces in which his figures exist. The paintings are a blend of figuration and abstraction that incorporate classical genres including landscape and portraiture, and, for the first time, nod to early 20th century American still lifes and Art Deco motifs. Bas is equally prodigious in his experimentation with various techniques and materials—such as airbrush, wood block, acrylic, gold leaf, and house paint—as he is with his reference points.
Although well-read on these subjects, Bas prefers to focus on enduring myths as well as his own internalized interpretations, rather than the factual components. The resulting works in Bright Young Things depict a decade-long span where eccentricities were not repressed but rather celebrated, however superficially, for their entertainment value.
Prior to his gallery exhibition Bright Young Things, Lehmann Maupin (booth B9) will also show artworks by Bas in a solo presentation at ADAA’s The Art Show 2016, running from March 2-6. Additionally, the artist has forthcoming museum solo exhibitions scheduled at the Nanjing Sifang Art Museum, China in fall 2016 and at the San Antonio Museum of Art in summer 2017.
About the artist
Born in 1978 in Miami, Florida, Hernan Bas’ work has been exhibited in numerous solo exhibitions around the world, including the installation TIME, Hernan Bas: a queer and curious cabinet at the Bass Museum of Art, Miami (2013); a retrospective exhibition at the Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (2012); and a major presentation at the Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2007), which subsequently traveled to the Brooklyn Museum of Art (2008). In 2014, Rizzoli published a monograph on the artist, the most comprehensive book of his work to date. Bas has participated in a number of important group exhibitions including The Collectors curated by Elmgreen & Dragset for the Nordic and Danish Pavilions at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009); Triumph of Painting: Part III, Saatchi Gallery, London (2005); Ideal Worlds—New Romanticism in Contemporary Art, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2005); and the 2004 Whitney Biennial. His work is included in the permanent collections of Brooklyn Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. The artist lives and works in Detroit and Miami.
Press release courtesy Lehmann Maupin.