Brian Gross Fine Art
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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, 1979
74 × 86 inches

Roy De Forest: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Brian Gross Fine Art, the gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, an exhibition of selected works by the acclaimed Bay Area artist Roy De Forest (1930–2007). On view will be large scale paintings, smaller works on panel and uniquely framed drawings that showcase De Forest’s signature vision. Roy De Forest, a UC Davis professor and contemporary of artists Robert Arneson, Joan Brown, and William T. Wiley, was renowned for his daring colors and masterful combinations of dense paint and mixed media applications. Depicting semi-abstracted landscapes imbued with charm and lyricism, De Forest invites the viewer to venture into his world. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie will be on view through May 2, 2015.

De Forest’s title painting, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, 1979, exemplifies the artist’s quintessential style. His cast of characters rendered in brilliant colors, textures and patterns assemble to form a complex swarm of activity and animation. Reminiscent of De Forest’s famous 1972 painting, Country Dog Gentlemen, in the collection of SFMOMA, the painting is a rich fusion of fantastic worlds and whimsical creatures. Floating bubbles and abstract boxes of dogs and men interlock, activating every inch of the painting’s surface. There is a spectacular congestion of figures and elements, some in profile, some looking out at the viewer, each seemingly unaware of one another. Separated by thick lines or accented dots, each character exists in its own world of unique hues and textures while simultaneously taking part in the collective narrative of De Forest’s elaborate tapestry.

In a series of works from 2001 and later, his trademark figures of dogs, birds, horses, and men are portrayed prominently and precisely, flanked or surrounded by relating figures and accentuated by a bordering shape of color and texture. In an untitled painting from 2001, parallel profiles of dogs and birds bring to mind regal portraits of Renaissance busts, in which importance and status are shown through the figure’s size, position and setting. Framed drawings from the same period include related characters similarly arranged, but with the landscape occupying a greater area, becoming a more significant element of the story. Both the paintings and drawings include sculptural frames in which the notable forms, colors, and even figures escape the surface and anoint its border as if playing tribute to their illustrated counterparts. The delight and humor with which he depicts these characters indicates De Forest’s visible fondness for them and the personal history that they represent.

Born in North Platte, Nebraska, in 1930, Roy De Forest received his MA from San Francisco State University, 1958, and taught at UC Davis from 1965 to 1982. His work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and Europe and is represented in numerous major public collections, including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Denver Art Museum; the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University; The Anderson Collection at Stanford University, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; San Jose Museum of Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. De Forest was the subject of a mid-career survey, which originated at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1974 and traveled to the Fort Worth Art Museum, Texas, the Glenbow-Alberta Art Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City. De Forest will be the subject of a major museum retrospective, scheduled to open at the Oakland Museum of California, in 2017.

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