New York

Forrest Bess

Hirschl & Adler Modern

It’s easy to see why abstract painters of the ’40s and ’50s were drawn to the work of Forrest Bess (1911–77). Even now artists enthuse over Bess’ fluent command of a rich array of simple but powerful abstract imagery, presented in blocky, saturated color on tiny canvases. This exhibition—reportedly the largest exhibition ever of Bess’ work—gave ample evidence of his quirky, distinctive style. The twin white rectangles centered against a black background of Untitled (No. 12A), 1957, for example, have a mute eloquence that seems to anticipate the solidity of Minimalism, but the pinks and purples streaming out of the righthand rectangle suggest an urgent, fleshy aspect to this otherwise idealistic drama of forms.

The sketchy facts of Bess’ life have contributed to his appeal to subsequent generations of painters. Bess called himself a visionary painter and aligned his work with that of such

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