Hernan Bas (b. 1978, Miami, FL, lives and works in Detroit, MI and Miami, FL) creates paintings, works on paper, videos, and installations that weave together adolescent adventures with classical poetry, religious stories, mythology, the paranormal, and literature. Influenced by the Romantic era of the 18th century that glorified the sublime beauty of nature and the Decadent movement of the 19th century that evoked romantic nihilism, skepticism, excess, and artificiality, Bas’ early work often portrayed nearly hidden adolescent male figures, deep in contemplation amidst vast otherworldly landscapes. As the figure and the interiors they occupied became more and more prominent throughout Bas’ work, so did the social and cultural context within which they were living. Spanning a wide range of time periods and themes, Bas investigates inquisition, desire, and obsessions and invites the viewer to recognize their own curiosities and oddities.
While the young male figure remains prominent throughout Bas’ oeuvre, in his more recent work individual paintings become an in-depth investigation into a singular critical subject, addressing topics such as LGBTQIA+ activism and desire, politics, news, conspiracy theories, and the occult. Providing a unique perspective on American subculture and a contemporary version of History Painting, they allow us to consider the relevance of seemingly inconsequential moments in the past and present and offer space for critical reflection. For his November 2019 exhibition with Lehmann Maupin, TIME LIFE, Bas used the Time-Life Book series Mysteries of the Unknown as his inspiration. Published between 1987 and 1991, each book focused on a different paranormal topic, such as ghosts, UFOs, psychic powers, and dreams. Navigating the liminal space between reality and fiction, the grotesque and the beautiful, the odd and the mundane, Bas highlights cult phenomena from the past that offer insight into the political and social concerns of today.
Bas received a degree from the New World School of the Arts, Miami, FL, in 1996. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized by Yuz Museum, Shanghai, China (2021); Space K, Seoul, South Korea (2021); Rubell Museum, Miami, FL (2020); Centro De Arte Contemporáneo Málaga, Málaga, Spain (2018); Colby College Art Museum, Waterville, ME (2018); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2017); Bass Museum of Art, Miami, FL (2013); and Kunstverein Hannover, Hannover, Germany (2012). Bas has participated in a number of group exhibitions, including Collection Focus: Our Beginnings Never Know Our Ends, Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, FL (2021); Eternal Forest, Paradise Art Space, Incheon, South Korea (2020); Where is the Madness You Promised Me: Dystopian Paintings from the Marc & Livia Straus Collection, Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY (2019); Generation Loss, Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf, Germany (2017); On the Horizon: Contemporary Cuban Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL (2017); Tracing Shadows, PLATEAU, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea (2015); On Painting, Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain (2013); Contemporary Magic: A Tarot Deck Art Project, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA (2011); The Collectors, curated by Elmgreen & Dragset for the Nordic and Danish Pavilions at the 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2009); Triumph of Painting: Part III, Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2005); Ideal Worlds – New Romanticism in Contemporary Art, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany (2005); and the Whitney Biennial, New York, NY (2004).
Bas’ work is in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, FL; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL; Saatchi Collection, London, United Kingdom; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco, CA; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; and the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA.