Perrotin Tokyo is proud to present “Insects from Abroad,” an exhibition of recent paintings by the American artist Hernan Bas. The exhibition is the artist’s first exhibition in Japan and his sixth exhibition with the gallery.
Hernan Bas was born in 1978 in Miami, Florida, where he grew up and began painting. He currently lives and works in Miami and Detroit. Inspired by 19th century Decadent writers such as Oscar Wilde and Joris-Karl Huysmans and painters from the French group Les Nabis, Bas creates work filled with symbolism and metaphors. The paintings fluctuate between the past and present, and between the pictorial convention of landscapes and abstract color fields. Historical and mythological narratives are created with baroque colors and decorative motifs set in romantic landscapes. The languorous and melancholic young male subjects appear suspended in time, between adolescence and adulthood embodying the fragile in-between state that the artist refers to as “fag limbo.”
“Insects from Abroad” exhibits Bas’s newly-created series of paintings and drawings inspired by an entomology book published in 1874 titled Insects Abroad: Being a popular account of foreign insects, their structure, habits, and transformations. Bas found the flamboyant poetics used to describe insects in this book parallel to the visual vocabulary used to describe the late 19th century European effeminate male character of ‘The Dandy.’ According to Bas, historically these characters were ridiculed, described as if they were actual insects, and given the appearance of an otherworldly species completely separate from ‘common decent society.’
By contrast, in Japan, the figure of ‘The Dandy’ has a different and more recent history, referring to restrained but sophisticated stylish men, traditionally called “Date-Otoko,” although this figure is undeniably understood as ‘masculine.’ A contemporary comparison can be made to the members of the musical subculture of “Visual Kei.” While the Visual Kei members are similarly concerned with altering their appearance through fashion and makeup, there is no exact equivalent in Japan to the 19th century European Dandy.
In this new series of portraits, the artist has created a group of characters that are literally “from Abroad,” both culturally and historically, in anticipation that a Japanese audience may find an appreciation for these “monsters.” Surrounded by exotic flora, these young men are portrayed as specimens: one beginning to spread his fragile wings, as if transforming from chrysalis to a butterfly; another hiding behind a mask, waiting for his prey to be ensnared in his web. The delicate poses and suspicious gazes of these beautiful creatures haunt and entice the viewer by exploring the space between attraction and repulsion.