Hernan Bas, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin
FlashArt - N°116, November - December, 2012

Hernan Bas’s exhibition Thirty-six Unknown Poets (or, decorative objects for the homosexual home) features three screens and numerous drawings in celebration of the poètes maudits (accursed poets). Bas has used gold leaf for the first time in these drawings, which consequently have a shimmering, precious and iconic quality. They depict lean young men reminiscent of the figures of Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and Thomas Eakins or of contemporary film and fashion icons (the models or actors of Hedi Slimane, Raf Simons, Larry Clark or Gus van Sant); these androgynous youths are shown in melancholy, contemplative poses in environments saturated with gold and color, where they stand out against backgrounds combining lush vegetation and gestural abstraction—tortured backdrops for tortured minds. Here, all is sensuality, eroticism, glorification of the beauty of youth. According to Mark Clintberg, Hernan Bas has a “direct acknowledgement of the skinny kid, or twink, as desirable—what might be construed as mere representation of a prepubescent form, is actually a social construct, an objectified male body type.”
There’s also something nostalgic and sentimental in the work of Hernan Bas, who draws inspiration from the literary and artistic culture of the late 19th century, from the romanticism and decadence of Lautréamont, Huysmans, Wilde or Thoreau. For his show, he “wanted to focus on the writers themselves as opposed to their words.” But why the figure of the poet as a starting point for the whole exhibition? “In the past few years,” says Bas, “that often misunderstood genre of the literary arts known simply as poetry has become a strong influence on the things I make. It started with a renewed interest in Emily Dickinson. Sadly Dickinson has become a cliché figurehead in the world of poetry, the equivalent of a Klimt poster in a college dorm room. Reading Dickinson again for the first time in a decade opened up the genre to me in a way I never thought possible; all of the things I look for and am influenced by can be found in the words of Poe, Frost, Keats or Plath.”
This exhibition is an ode to masculine beauty, to the sensuality of the body and the poetry of the mind. While preparing his show, Hernan Bas “stumbled on the recurring depiction of what are known as the ‘36 immortal poets’; these celebrated luminaries made [him] consider the other side of immortality, the forgotten. [He] set out to paint these unknown (and invented) poets, a suite of portraits for those who may have loved to call themselves poets but never published a word. By painting a portrait, these characters’ words are forgotten but their image, that of an anonymous ‘poet’, will linger.”

Hernan Bas
Unknown poet #13, 2012
Hernan Bas
Decorative changing screen for the