While the Roy De Forest exhibit has recently closed, the Oakland Museum continues to sell the show’s catalogue.
Roy De Forest’s brightly hued, crazy-quilted paintings and sculptures are dotted with nipples of color and inhabited by a cast of characters uniquely his own, a perennial favorite being his instantly recognizable, wild-eyed and pointy-eared dogs.
Published in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition of the American painter’s fifty-year career, Of Dogs and Other People reassesses De Forest’s art-historical position, placing him in a national rather than solely West Coast context.
Despite the playfulness of his work, close study of De Forest’s art reveals deep layers of meaning. He was a fan of adventure stories, pulp fiction, and underground commix, but he also commanded a vast knowledge of art history and read widely in a variety of disciplines, including poetry, literature, philosophy, psychology, science, and mathematics.
He enjoyed secreting obscure art-historical references into his work: animals assume postures found in Medieval or Renaissance art, and his compositional strategies draw from sources ranging from the romantic landscape painters of the Hudson River School to the austere geometric abstractions of Piet Mondrian.
This engaging publication presents gorgeous color reproductions of De Forest’s finest artworks, plus a variety of figure illustrations that illuminate the artist’s diverse sources and freewheeling social and creative milieu in Northern California.
The book is authored by Susan Landauer, and published in association with the Oakland Museum of California. Cultural Currents will carry a full review in the coming months.