Hernan Bas – Frieze Los Angeles 

    Booth B9
    29 February–3 March 2024

    Victoria Miro is delighted to participate in Frieze Los Angeles (Booth B9) with a solo presentation of new paintings and works on paper by Hernan Bas.

    The stillness at the heart of Hernan Bas’ paintings is often one of calculated ambiguity, held in counterpoint to the transportive effects – of literature, beauty, the supernatural – experienced by his subjects and, by proxy, us as viewers. Inspired by a recent painting from his acclaimed series The Conceptualists, currently on view as part of the artist’s exhibition at The Bass Museum of Art, Miami, many of the works in this presentation focus on a lone male figure drinking in an absinthe bar.

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    Hernan 1 (1 x bohemian cafe)

    Acrylic on linen
    213.4 x 274.3 cm
    84 x 108 in

    Hernan Bas, A Bohemian at breakfast, 2024

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    ‘The work asks, what does bohemianism mean today? What might it look like when no-one smokes, and especially not indoors?’

    In the large painting A Bohemian at breakfast, details – such as menu items chalked above the counter, marks and initials scratched into woodwork – stack up, providing a secondary narrative as we study the central character, whose  idealised existence is denoted by the impossibly vertical ascent of the smoke from his cigarette. Inspired in part by accounts of the Manhattan art scene in the 1950s, the work asks, what does bohemianism mean today? What might it look like when no-one smokes, and especially not indoors?


    Hernan 3 (2 x absinthe boys)

    Acrylic on canvas
    71.1 x 55.9 cm
    28 x 22 in
    (HB 448)

    Hernan Bas, Absinthe drinker, 2024

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    Acrylic on canvas
    76.2 x 61 cm
    30 x 24 in
    (HB 445)

    Hernan Bas, Absinthe drinker, 2024

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    ‘Like Manet, Degas and Picasso before him, Bas takes the figure of the absinthe drinker along with its attendant rituals and paraphernalia.’

    For Bas, absinthe, legendary symbol of decadence, mind-altering muse and rocket fuel of avant-garde art and literature from the 1850s until its prohibition half a century or so later, has long been of interest as a source of cultural reference. Here, like Manet, Degas and Picasso before him, Bas takes the figure of the absinthe drinker along with its attendant rituals and paraphernalia – glass, slotted spoon, sugar cubes, the slowly dripping ice water from an absinthe fountain – to create works that serve up a heady concoction of glamour, wit, bohemian sophistication and (in echoes at least) transgression. They pivot around a sense of escapism – from the norm, from now, from ourselves – be that via an overproof spirit or a captivating face at the bar.


    Hernan 4 (2 x absinthe boys)

    Acrylic on linen
    71.1 x 55.9 cm
    28 x 22 in
    (HB 447)

    Hernan Bas, Absinthe drinker, 2024

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    Acrylic on linen
    71.1 x 55.9 cm
    28 x 22 in
    (HB 449)

    Hernan Bas, Absinthe drinker, 2024

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    ‘Green flashes in his subjects’ eyes, is echoed in clothing or interior décor, even denotes a phantom parrot perched on the shoulder of one figure, a rare hallucinatory moment in these otherwise crystalline scenes.’

    None of the young men depicted are actually caught in the act of drinking. Rarely do they even meet our gaze. We search details for clues, check glasses to see how much, if any, of the enrapturing liquor has been consumed, try to gauge if the ‘Green Fairy’ has taken hold. Throughout, Bas has had fun with the colour green as a motif and an active agent. It flashes in his subjects’ eyes, is echoed in clothing or interior décor, even denotes a phantom parrot perched on the shoulder of one figure, a rare hallucinatory moment in these otherwise crystalline scenes.


    Hernan 5 (3 x 76.2×61 B&W)

    Ink transfer and 3 colour screen print on paper
    76.2 x 57.1 cm
    30 x 22 1/2 in
    (HB 455)

    Hernan Bas, Absinthe drinker, 2024

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    Ink transfer and 3 colour screen print on paper
    76.2 x 57.1 cm
    30 x 22 1/2 in
    (HB 452)

    Hernan Bas, Absinthe drinker, 2024

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    Ink transfer and 3 colour screen print on paper
    76.2 x 57.1 cm
    30 x 22 1/2 in
    (HB 453)

    Hernan Bas, Absinthe drinker, 2024

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    Hernan 7 (garden umbrella boy)

    Acrylic on linen
    213.4 x 182.9 cm
    84 x 72 in

    Hernan Bas, The forecast called for clear skies, 2024

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    The forecast called for clear skies takes us to a garden of blousy hydrangeas and more tropical blooms, its beauty intensified, with classic Bas humour, by a gathering storm.’

    Silkscreen is employed to conjure the requisite transparency of the umbrella in the painting The forecast called for clear skies. Taking us outdoors to a garden of blousy hydrangeas and more tropical blooms, this is a work of light, reflection and endlessly refracted art historical reference, its beauty intensified, with classic Bas humour, by a gathering storm.


    Hernan 2 (1 x vampire birthday)

    Acrylic on on board mounted in artist frame
    243.8 x 152.4 cm
    96 x 60 in

    Hernan Bas, Vampire, 2023

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    ‘According to the balloons floating above him Vampire is celebrating his 142nd birthday.’

    Vampire, in his white, double-breasted jacket with blood-red buttons and bow tie, is about to blow a party horn to celebrate, according to the balloons floating above him, his 142nd birthday; no age at all for a vampire and a blink of the eye in the history of painting.


    Hernan 6 (NYE balloons)

    Acrylic on canvas
    101.6 x 76.2 cm
    40 x 30 in

    Hernan Bas, Gold-leaf toast (12:08 AM), 2024

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    ‘A bittersweet moment unfolds in Gold-leaf toast (12:08 AM).’

    A bittersweet moment unfolds in Gold-leaf toast (12:08 AM), pictured moments after midnight at New Year, balloons yet to deflate, champagne half drunk, but already a shadow of introspection or something approaching regret creeps across the subject’s face.


    About the artist

    Hernan Bas, born in Miami, Florida in 1978, lives and works in Miami. Solo exhibitions of his work have been presented at venues including Space K, Seoul, Korea; CAC Málaga, Spain; Kunstverein Hannover, Germany; the Rubell Museum, Miami, USA and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, USA. Hernan Bas: The Conceptualists is currently on view at The Bass Museum of Art, Miami, USA, until 5 May 2024.

    His work has also been shown as part of significant group exhibitions at the Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; Busan Biennale, Korea; Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany; the Whitney Biennial; and the Venice Biennale as part of The Collectors, conceived by Elmgreen & Dragset for the Nordic and Danish Pavilions in 2009.

    Works by the artist are included in the collections of MoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Hirshhorn, MOCA Los Angeles, SFMoMA, MFA Houston, and the Rubell Family Collection, among others.



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