During November and December the George Adams Gallery will present two paintings and a selection of works on paper by Roy De Forest in our side gallery. The exhibition includes work from 1962-1991 and outlines De Forest's growing engagement with complex, often layered narrative.
The focus of the exhibition are the two large-scale paintings: 'Day of the Trifolds' (1962), and 'View of Lake Louise' (1979). The former, which gets its title from the sci-fi film ‘Day of the Triffids,’ combines De Forest’s fascination with the pulp genre with his deep and often esoteric knowledge of art history. As Susan Landauer notes in her recent monograph on the artist, the painting alludes equally to an invasion of carnivorous gigantic plants, as featured in the film, and “the dispute between Mondrian and Theo Van Doesburg over the viability of the diagonal.” The painting also signals the early stages of De Forest’s transition out of abstraction, as more fully realized figures begin to appear in his work of the time.
This is nowhere more apparent than in De Forest’s drawings, which formed an active and consistent part of his work throughout his career. As much as an experimental field for developing imagery and characters to be incorporated into his paintings, the drawings are also finished works and considered as such by the artist. A progression can be seen from the mark-making in ‘Untitled (Doodles)’ (1967) interspersed with sketches of men (in hats), to the fully developed ‘Camp Monet’ (1991) done more than twenty years later.
By the mid-‘70s, De Forest's ‘all-over’ style, with its bright colors, textured surfaces, and inventive use of materials, supported more fully developed narratives. In 'View of Lake Louise’ the collapsed space contains various figures surrounding the titular window frame, which is loosely outlined in white dots. While there is a distinct boundary between the exterior ‘view’ and the interior space, the window itself seems to float in a mountainous landscape of reclining women, dogs and the odd rock. The relationship between interior and exterior is established by the locked gaze of two dogs looking through the window - another compositional tool that often crops up in De Forest’s work.
A consummate tinkerer, De Forest not only was highly experimental with the materials he used to create the textural surfaces of his paintings, but an early focus on sculpture later translated into artist-made frames for his paintings and drawings. The earliest are modestly decorated with a simple pattern of marks or cuts, but in later work, frames become more elaborate often extensions of the pieces. For the drawing ‘Camp Monet,' for example, De Forest carved an elaborately curved double frame, embellished by a conical head.