Figurative art is having a moment – and if you’re interested in well-rendered bodies, painter Hernan Bas will appeal. Lehmann Maupin is showing an entirely new body of work by the Miami-based artist at its gallery in New York from November 7 to January 4. The show focuses on characters on the fringes of society. This is history painting for a new, culturally literate and politically conscious audience.
“The show’s title, Time Life, is a reference to the publisher’s Mysteries of the Unknown series of the late 1980s that documented paranormal topics and subcultures, which show up in Hernan’s works,” says the gallery’s co-founder David Maupin. “It’s important to consider how much these conspiracy theories and ideas have truly shaped our society, and Hernan perfectly captures the obsession and intrigue.” Bas’s characters include The Pundit and The Occult Enthusiast, drawing from obscure or forgotten moments from America’s past.
This new series of works also draws on LGBTQ+ life. “He started the series with his monumental Sorting Out Andy for his exhibition at CAC Malaga last year, based on the ‘sorting out’ of the Andy Warhol estate [following his death],” says Maupin, “and continues it in this exhibition with The Sip-In. The nine-foot painting depicts an iconic photo of the gay-rights movement from 1966 taken at Julius in New York [today a historic gay bar], when openly gay men were refused service and staged a sit-in. Hernan transforms this photograph into an allegory of biblical proportions.”
There will be seven large-scale paintings and one decorative room screen on display (prices range from $175,000 to $300,000), demonstrating a shift and development in Bas’s signature style. His softer, earlier youthful male figures touching on ideas from literature, myth and classical poetry have become sharper, more complex and colourful.
Lehmann Maupin is also spreading its wings, with a new London space on Cromwell Place in South Kensington (currently set to open in spring 2020). Amira Gad, formerly curator of exhibitions and architecture at the Serpentine Galleries, will be the artistic director, focusing on institutions within the UK and Europe. Expect Bas to be one of the impressive roster of artists crossing the Atlantic.