Bright Young Things is Lehmann Maupin’s ongoing exhibition for a new body of work by Detroit and Miami-based painter Hernan Bas. Amongst the most particular and earnest contemporary figurative painters, Bas has established himself over the past years as a craftsman of distinctive visual narratives, in which the lavish and relentlessly indulgent daily life of western aristocracy meets the styles of mannerist painting, employing passionate color spectrums and surreal architectural forms.
In his current exhibition, Bas has put forth an extensive body of works, mainly composed of acrylics on canvas and silkscreens on linen, in which the tempestuousness of his brushstrokes thrives through curvaceous forms and radiant hues. His colors beam through voluminous theater drapes, flamboyant attires and elegant bouquets, always centered around eloquent excess of a group of young men, who were often referred to as “Bright Young Things” or “Bright Young People,” in the elite circles of 1920’s London.
These British dandies have been portrayed rebelling against society’s set masculine standards while posing blasé attitudes and pursuing bohemian life styles in England while the country was healing from World War I, and standing on the edge of World War II. Invested in distinct hobbies, commonly art, literature and philosophy, these youths stand in Bas’s interpretations transition from adolescence towards adulthood, fusing various physical and behavioral features in their tender physiques.
Dispersed around Bas’ canvases, these figures engage in a mixture of mundane and uncompromisingly privileged activities, ranging from taming a pet flamingo to counting popped champagne bottles floating on a pool’s surface. They often seem confused, demure and disoriented, whether nursing their hangovers from a previous night or pausing for reflection, they deliver little emotion. Their tender demeanors contrast the endurance they maintain through Bas’s potent movements on the canvas. They graciously encounter the artist’s profound and voluminous colors, and blossom through his compositions, tinged with abstract energy. While Bas possesses stronger tendency to position his models amid deliberate abstraction in his earlier body of work, pieces here such as Pulling a mask, He swims with the tide and The imagined atelier of Bruno Hat exemplify such immersion of abstraction into figurative painting.
Hernan Bas: Bright Young Things is on view at Lehmann Maupin through April 23, 2016.
*All images are Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.
— O.C. Yerebakan
Lehmann Maupin [Exhibition Page]