Roy De Forest's vibrant works present playful visions that take us on a trip into alternative realities. In Spring 2017, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) will present Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest, an exhibition designed to simulate an adventurous exploration of the artist's dream-like and sometimes humorous works. Large, colorful paintings and sculptures spanning De Forest's career will provide visitors the opportunity to navigate their own journeys by exploring vistas and portals into imaginative worlds. Listening stations throughout the exhibition will allow visitors to drift deeper into individual works, led by an array of exhibition-related character guides ranging from dog trainers to art historians and ship captains. A hands-on space will provide a social experience and allow visitors to manipulate and engage with textured, tactile materials and shapes inspired by De Forest's artwork.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog, Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest, 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. 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 He enjoyed secreting obscure art-historical references into his work: animals assume postures found in Medieval or Renaissance art, and his compositional strategies draw from sources ranging from the romantic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.
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 this retrospective exhibition of the American painter’s fifty-year career, Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest reassesses De Forest’s art-historical position, placing him in a national rather than solely West Coast context.