Roy De Forest, Canis Prospectus (1986),
polymer and alkyd on canvas
Roy de Forest is one of the ultra-original San Francisco Bay Area "Funk" artists of the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. With Robert Arneson, Bruce Conner, David Gilhooly, Robert Hudson and William T. Wiley, he established a refuge of insanity and cartoony figurative art in the midst of what had appeared to be a total occupation by the formalist and abstractionist gospels as preached by Clement Greenberg and the New York School of painting. The "Funk" artists found affinities among Chicago confederates such as H.C. Westermann and Jim Nutt; and Gaylen Hansen in Eastern Washington; there were spin--offs as diverse as glass artist Richard Marquis, and underground-comic "Leonardo," Robert Crumb. After decades, their imitators are myriad.
Roy De Forest remains to this day an original because everything he produces is from an unforced, lively and boyish imagination somehow kept alive in the body of a grown man; not the result of a strategy or technique, or for that matter, from an observed or observable world. De Forest builds a narrative about people, marvel dogs and mythical figures in distant jungles, deserts, and fantastical dreamscapes. They are coloured with Crayola abandon. His literary bent provides titles which are not so much clues as further ruses against reason.
De Forest's pictures, often in his own DaDa/baroque frames, have always defied analysis, as have his sculptures: 3-D manifestations of the same fabulist pantheon. If one must know what Roy De Forest's paintings are about, other than at each glance, a momentary and blissful vacation from the real world, one must be accompanied by a child.
© Ted Lindberg