February 14, 2014

Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible

Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, SUNY
Forrest Bess, Untitled, 1957. Digital image. The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Gift of Adam Kimmel. Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY. © The Museum of Modern Art, NY.

The Neuberger Museum of Art of Purchase College presents Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible, the first survey exhibition of the work of Bess in more than twenty years. The Neuberger Museum is the only east coast venue for this exhibition, organized by the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. It is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.

Forrest Bess includes 55 objects, 48 of which are small-scale canvases, rich with enigmatic symbolism, that the artist said would reveal “the universal unconscious” of memories and experiences. Bess drew meaning for these symbols and motifs—that he said appeared to him in dreams since childhood—from various disciplines such as medicine, psychology, anthropology, and philosophy. A unique figure in American art, Bess recorded his hallucinations and recurring visions in his works, which included sketches and writings that eventually revealed his “thesis,” that the unification of male and female within one’s body could produce immortality.

Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible was organized by the Menil Collection, curated by assistant curator Clare Elliott in collaboration with artist Robert Gober, expanding on a project he created for the 2012 Whitney Biennial. It includes rare works on paper and selected letters, and is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue. At the Neuberger Museum of Art the exhibition is organized by chief curator Tracy Fitzpatrick. Support for the exhibition is provided by Helen Stambler Neuberger and Jim Neuberger, the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art, and Purchase College Foundation. At the Menil Collection, Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible was realized through the generous support of The John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation; The Eleanor and Frank Freed Foundation; Ann and Henry Hamman; Bérengère Primat; Nina and Michael Zilkha; Baker Botts L.L.P.; Bank of America; Peter J. Fluor/K.C. Weiner; Christy and Lou Cushman; and the City of Houston.

Conversation: The Insider’s Outsider
Thursday, March 13, 6–7:30pm
Mary Kosut, associate professor of Media, Society & the Arts and Gender Studies at Purchase College, and Chuck Smith, writer and producer of the documentary Forrest Bess: Key to the Riddle, assess whether or not Bess was an outsider artist.

Tour: Forrest Bess Unraveled
Sunday, March 30, 2–3pm
Chief curator Tracy Fitzpatrick leads a walk-through of the exhibition.

Film screening: Key to the Riddle, Q & A with Chuck Smith
Thursday, April 24, 6–7pm
This documentary traces the life and logic of this cult artist. Producer Chuck Smith will introduce the film and answer questions following the screening.

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