Basic questions such as “how good are these paintings” remain surprisingly difficult to answer when applied to Hernan Bas, particularly in light of his copious exhibition history and press accolades. There’s a crudeness to the way Bas applies paint which even to the skilled eye can muddy the distinction between knowing skill, and dexterity with the medium and sloppiness without sufficient resolution. Certainly earlier Bas paintings leaned more towards the latter, though the works currently on display at the Rubell Family Collection gallery exhibit almost astounding growth.
I’m not convinced however, that the work is fully developed yet. While the paintings are undeniably beautifully painted, several on display feature one too many props or affects. For example, the painting pictured above has all the allure of the similarly elongated figures of John Currin, or a contemporary such as Jansson Stegner, but these same references also make the neck piece feel slightly contrived. Virtually all the paintings in this same gallery suffer mildly from too much something or other, be it over work, or excessively complicated landscapes.
By contrast On the Jagged Shore, a largely black and white painting depicting dandy boys along a rocky coast, or The Ribbons After the Party, a small portrait painting maintain a high level of complexity without ever doing too much. The queer narratives take shape without being too linear or directed, and the paint itself holds these grander Cecil Beaton like compositions together.