The American artist Hernan Bas is best-known for his theatrical figurative paintings, in which androgynous young men appear engaged in rituals of courtship, love and death. He draws on a vast range of influences, from decorative arts to the writing of Oscar Wilde, childrens’ TV shows and cinema. ‘The Conceptualists’, a solo exhibition at Victoria Miro gallery in London (18 November–14 January 2023), features a new body of work in which Bas presents us with different kinds of artist, consumed by a variety of obsessive pursuits. ‘What before might have been seen as a rogues’ gallery of “weirdos” is now, under the guise and cover of “art”, a series of portraits of intellectuals. The humour I hope these works convey is intentional… I don’t consider my series of paintings to be a parody, but I have enjoyed the liberty of making portraits of artists who, while taking themselves seriously, might concede they’re being quite “clever”,’ Bas has said of this latest series.
Where is your studio?
My studio is in Little Havana in Miami, just a few blocks from where I live. So I can walk to work. Little Havana is an old Cuban neighbourhood and a bit of a tourist trap, so I walk past all these people taking pictures on my way there each day. The only time I really liked [the busyness], or missed it, was in the early days of the pandemic when everything was shut down. Walking down that same street when it was completely empty was very strange – no double-decker tour buses, no noise. Generally though, [the crowds] are more of an annoyance.
Image: Hernan Bas, Conceptual Artist #5 (A budding gilder, his dying houseplants get the Midas touch), 2022