Perrotin welcomes visitors to Creature Comforts, the gallery’s fifth exhibition with American painter Hernan Bas, featuring thirteen new paintings the artist has created since March at his Miami studio.
A sense of poetic tension prevails the works Bas painted in various scales that range from larger-than-life to intimate, reflecting the broad palette of sentiments experienced by his paintings’ protagonists. A signature in the artist’s unabashedly gilded universe, a suit of young adult men populate borderline surreal mises en scène with angst remnant from teen-age years and fragility towards the impending manhood. Equally persistent and delicate, blasé twinks gingerly execute flamboyant acts—they flirt with danger, waltz with death, and huddle with pain.
It's not the beginning of the play and it's not the end. It's literally that intermission where you walk out, take a breath and say let me think about that for a minute before I go finish this.
Elegance and demise are balanced in Dinner hour at the Little Shop of Horrors, in which a boy’s green gloves grasp a metal chain elevating an animal carcass inside a nursery for carnivorous plants. He satisfies the demurely barbarian plants’ hunger for flesh, not with the enormous slab of meat, but with flies tempted by the smell of the raw cut, depicted here à la Chaim Soutine.
In Hot Seat, stakes for risk are high, as well as the length of a serpent draping from the ceiling and nestle around a boy’s neck. A scarlet shade of red washes the room where a terrarium with a host of reptiles occupies the background. A scorching lamp and the boy’s matching-colored shirt complete the inferno Bas illuminates with inspiration from Munch’s Self-Portrait in Hell (1903).
A young gentleman seeks shelter behind a sheer veil in How Best to Suffer Swamp Life at Dusk, masking his blue eyes under a ghostly net shrouding over an umbrella against greedy mosquitos. Sheer yet resilient, the veil is already dotted with bugs unable to devour the boy for his blood. Similar to the exhibition’s other subjects, the boy is positioned between discomfort and posture, willfully assuming a pre-carious position in a duello with natural critters.
After nearly two decades since Bas started painting them, the boys—modern day Ganymede’s, Tadzio’s and Elio’s—signal passage into maturity, reflected in their selfless and fatally generous gestures. These young men embrace risks at the expense of their beauty, which has been both their armor and ornament. Once indulgent aesthetes and wistful romantics, they, now, sacrifice their vital fluids or forego their dwellings in attempts to accommodate comforts of creatures they daringly hold dear.
In Adult Security Blanket, one fashions his all-black attire with a royal blue blanket, emblazoned with: “Adult security blanket. If lost return to D. Bell,” based on a thrift store find in Bas’s collection for over a decade. The box of the original blanket, which is not depicted in the painting, reads: “When all seems to fail, try this ‘true companion’ for comforting consolation…”
Osman Can Yerebakan
I like to keep the paintings as timeless as possible, even in the styling of the figures always simple, jeans, t-shirt, etc. allows the viewer to engage with whatever narrative they choose to read into the work. I try not to spell it out for the viewer; ambiguity is always a friend to the works, with the exception of the titles which I have a good deal of fun with.
Born in 1978 in Miami, Florida, USA
Lives and works in Miami, Florida, and Detroit, Michigan, USA
Hernan Bas’s expressionist and highly detailed figurative paintings are openly inspired by late-nineteenth-century decadent art and literature, as well as the concurrent symbolist and decorative style of the French group Les Nabis. Though aesthetically grounded in the iconography of the male androgynous dandy, the young protagonists of his oneiric visions are usually portrayed alone or in small groups, in attitudes of pure flânerie. Whether confined to the intimacy of a genre scene or lost in the vertigo of a dense, lush, romantic landscape, they inhabit a fantasized world of implicit eroticism and ambiguous sensuality. Always appearing as if suspended in time, between adolescence and adulthood, they embody a fragile in-between state that the artist refers to as “fag limbo.” With a flamboyant palette and a refined touch, Bas revisits and reinterprets, in masterly fashion, the various categories of classical painting from a homoerotic perspective that is seemingly melancholic yet often humorous and witty.