The Bass announces Hernan Bas: The Conceptualists, on-view beginning December 4, 2023 and through May 5, 2024, an exhibition of paintings that explore conceptual art as a permissive realm for creative behavior and an inviting space for queerness.
Hernan Bas: The Conceptualists will feature 35 paintings, many never previously exhibited at museums, including the artist’s largest canvas to date measuring some 9 by 21 feet.
In his paintings, drawings and installations, Miami-based artist Hernan Bas (b. 1978) creates intricately detailed scenes that invite viewers to decipher an astounding number of visual references. His works often involve a single male or group of male figures caught in moments of stasis, in apparent introspection or still repose. All other action surrounding the character is seemingly suspended for the artist’s and viewers’ thoughtful study.
Mining literary sources, like the aesthetic decadence and queer eroticism of such nineteenth-century writers as Oscar Wilde and Joris-Karl Huysman, Bas incorporates visual cues into a range of narratives. From poetry, religion, mythology and literature to the histories of gay struggle, youth culture, news media and television, Bas’s detailed vignettes symbolically reference the peculiarities of cultural identities.
While earlier works show male characters linked to specific stories, each painting in The Conceptualists depicts a single protagonist deeply engaged in an obsessive, idiosyncratic pastime. Bas’ subjects freely exercise the unique activities that give sustenance and meaning to their lives: carving objects that hold ice, fabricating roadside memorials for hitchhikers, chewing gum every waking hour of the day, or gilding the leaves of dying house plants, among other personal idylls.
Bas’ detailed depictions substantiate quirky behaviors under the generous categorization of “conceptual art.” These tales are queer, where queerness refers not necessarily to sexual orientation but to a pillar of conceptual art—an incomprehensible permissiveness and liberating space for a society grounded in conformity.
The Conceptualists is a featured exhibition as The Bass commemorates its 60th anniversary season of sharing powerful contemporary art that excites, challenges and educates audiences, bringing new perspectives to Miami Beach’s diverse cultural context.
ABOUT HERNAN BAS
Hernan Bas (b. 1978, Miami, FL, lives and works in Miami, FL) creates paintings, works on paper, videos and installations that weave together adolescent adventures with classical poetry, religious stories, mythology, the paranormal and literature. Influenced by the Romantic era of the 18th century that glorified the sublime beauty of nature and the Decadent movement of the 19th century that evoked romantic nihilism, skepticism, excess and artificiality, Bas’ early work often portrayed nearly hidden adolescent male figures, deep in contemplation amidst vast otherworldly landscapes. As the figure and the interiors they occupied became more and more prominent throughout Bas’ work, so did the social and cultural context within which they were living. Spanning a wide range of time periods and themes, Bas investigates inquisition, desire and obsessions and invites the viewer to recognize their own curiosities and oddities.
While the young male figure remains prominent throughout Bas’ oeuvre, in his more recent work of individual paintings become an in-depth investigation into a singular critical subject, addressing topics such as LGBTQIA+ activism and desire, politics, news, conspiracy theories and the occult. Providing a unique perspective on American subculture and a contemporary version of History Painting, they allow us to consider the relevance of seemingly inconsequential moments in the past and present and offer space for critical reflection. For his November 2019 exhibition with Lehmann Maupin, TIME LIFE, Bas used the Time-Life Book series “Mysteries of the Unknown” as his inspiration. Published between 1987 and 1991, each book focused on a different paranormal topic, such as ghosts, UFOs, psychic powers and dreams. Navigating the liminal space between reality and fiction, the grotesque and the beautiful, the odd and the mundane, Bas highlights cult phenomena from the past that offer insight into the political and social concerns of today.