Hernan Bas, Conceptual Artist #11 (Performance based, his work centres on discomfort) (2022), via Victoria Miro
Artist Hernan Bas is celebrated for works that, permeated by an aura of eroticism and decadence, and loaded with codes and double-meanings, point to the intricacies of self-identity while celebrating moments of transformation – the ordinary becoming extraordinary. This mode of practice returns in the artist’s most recent exhibition, The Conceptualists, on view this winter at Victoria Miro’s London exhibition space. Once again returning to the male figure in this series of works, Bas equally draws his lens on to the art world, resulting in a series of works that mix a careful eye for line and form with a playful engagement with the language of conceptual art.
Hernan Bas, Conceptual Artist #9 (Performance based, his work is tied to the binds of gravity) (2022), via Victoria Miro
While earlier paintings in the artist’s catalogue hinge on characters with nascent identities and burgeoning interests, the works in this exhibition follow a new theme, in which Bas’s protagonists engage in a variety of obsessive pursuits that, deemed strange under everyday circumstances, might be rationalized or even championed when considered as ‘conceptual art’. Bringing their strange interests into the linguistic framing systems and rationale of the art world, they seem to be “redeemed” in a way, their peculiar characteristics now turned productive. As “Conceptualists,” the characters in the paintings are emboldened to indulge their passions – chewing gum every waking hour of the day, gilding the leaves of dying house plants, mixing paint with water sourced exclusively from Niagara Falls – with vigor and seriousness as they construct their self-made worlds.
Hernan Bas, Conceptual Artist #7 (A Warhol enthusiast, his 26th studio mate completes the story) (2022), via Victoria Miro
That stern and serious approach to these tasks gives the works much of their charge and energy. In one, a figure is pressed between a series of mattresses, lifting a lone pea from a pile of them in a clear allusion to the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” Bas drives the point home with the work’s title, identifying the artist as one whose “work centers on discomfort.” In another, a figure stares upwards at a suspended bag, with Bas identifying him as an artist who mails “everyone in his zip code a single dead fly.”
Hernan Bas, Conceptual Artist #13 (Founder and sole member of the BUZZ OFF INITIATIVE, he spends his nights mailing everyone in his zip code a single dead fly) (2022), via Victoria Miro
Bas’s work is powerful in its ability to simultaneously frame and depict his figures in charged moments of anticipation, discomfort and fascination, yet equally so, his sense of subversion and understanding of the art world pushes against it, creating works that toy with the high-minded notion of the art world, and how its participants might be deemed “oddballs” anywhere else.
The show closes January 21st, 2022.
– D. Creahan
Hernan Bas at Victoria Miro [Exhibition Site]