Open artistic sexuality has broadened the possibilities for eroticism in art, but like your Grandpa says, there’s magic in leaving something to the imagination. Hernan Bas, known for his paintings of listless young men that fairly crackle with sexual tension, does just that. The erotic is ever-present in his works—even dystopian landscapes seem ripe and lush, inspiring that familiar mixture of fear and excitement that so often is a prelude a romantic encounter. His works have been associated strongly with 19th century Romanticism as they recall the writing of J.K. Huysmans and Oscar Wilde in their barely-concealed queerness, abounding with beautiful boys sipping wine in verdant nature scenes.
In his new show, however, Bas jumps forward in time—just a bit. Bright Young Things, at Chelsea’s Lehmann Maupin Gallery, finds Bas painting the louche, well-off youth of interwar Britain. These jazz-age aristocrats were designated “bright young things” by the media, and the fact that they transgressed the strict bounds of heterosexuality was, due to their wealth and connections, considered if not entirely permissible, a charming function of youth. Queerness "was acceptable in the '20s if you were an eccentric,” Bas tells The Creators Project, "which is what this show is kind of about."
Compared to his previous paintings, this series employs a bright color palette, and its nature scenes take place in blooming gardens rather than the wild forests of his earlier works. "The comment I’ve heard the most—which is kind of surprising, but also a good thing—is that the characters look happier,” Bas says. "There still is some melancholy in there because, I mean, it’s me. But in a way it’s like me growing up, as well as these characters."
Bright Young Things will be exhibited at Lehmann Maupin Gallery until April 23rd. For more information, click here.