Roy De Forest’s brightly hued, crazy-quilted paintings and sculptures are dotted with nipples of color and inhabited by a cast of characters uniquely his own, a perennial favorite being his instantly recognizable, wild-eyed and pointy-eared dogs. Published in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition of the American painter’s fifty-year career, Of Dogs and Other People reassesses De Forest’s art-historical position, placing him in a national rather than solely West Coast context.
Despite the playfulness of his work, close study of De Forest’s art reveals deep layers of meaning. He was a fan of adventure stories, pulp fiction, and underground commix, but he also commanded a vast knowledge of art history and read widely in a variety of disciplines, including poetry, literature, philosophy, psychology, science, and mathematics. He enjoyed secreting obscure art-historical references into his work: animals assume postures found in Medieval or Renaissance art, and his compositional strategies draw from sources ranging from the romantic landscape painters of the Hudson River School to the austere geometric abstractions of Piet Mondrian.
This engaging publication presents gorgeous color reproductions of De Forest’s finest artworks, plus a variety of figure illustrations that illuminate the artist’s diverse sources and freewheeling social and creative milieu in Northern California.
Published in association with the Oakland Museum of California.
Oakland Museum of California: April 29–August 20, 2017
Susan Landauer holds a Ph.D. from Yale University and is an independent curator and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was chief curator of the San Jose Museum of Art from 1999 to 2009 and is the author and coauthor of many books and exhibition catalogues, including The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism; California Impressionists; The Lighter Side of Bay Area Figuration; Elmer Bischoff: The Ethics of Paint; Dream Games: The Art of Robert Schwartz; The Not-so-Still Life: A Century of California Painting and Sculpture; Tragic Kingdom: The Art of Camille Rose Garcia; Todd Schorr: American Surreal; John Paul Jones: The Pursuit of Beauty’s Perfect Proof; Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series; Hassel Smith: Paintings, 1937–1997; Yosemite: A Storied Landscape; and Women of Abstract Expressionism.