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The eccentric visionary artist Forrest Bess (19111977) spent most of his life on the Texas coast working as a commercial fisherman. In his spare time, however, he painted prolifically, creating an extraordinary body of work rich with enigmatic symbolism. Bess experienced hallucinations that both frightened and intrigued him, and he incorporated images from these visions into small-scale abstract paintings starting in the mid-1940s. His canvases attracted an underground following, and between 1949 and 1967, Betty Parsons organized six solo exhibitions of Bess's work at her prominent New York City gallery. Since then, the art world has periodically rediscovered his work, most recently through a 2012 Whitney Biennial installation by American sculptor Robert Gober, which further exposed Bess's psychological, medical, and religious theories. Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisibleis the artist's first museum retrospective with catalogue in the United States and offers a fresh look at Bess's work and a better understanding of this curious and complicated artist.
Clare Elliott is assistant curator at The Menil Collection. Robert Gober is an artist working in New York City.