Artists Space

Inside and Outside: Forrest Bess's Queer Life
Mark Turner on Forrest Bess

Lecture & Screening
June 2, 2012, 7pm

Mark Turner, Professor of English at Kings College, London, has over recent years pursued research into the Betty Parsons Gallery, and the artists who exhibited there. This has led to a particular focus on Forrest Bess, his theories and their visibility in relation to his identity as an artist. Turner’s presentation of this research will follow a screening of Key to the Riddle, director Ari Marcopoulos and Chuck Smith's 2000 documentary on the life and work of Bess.

Robert Gober’s curation of work by the artist Forrest Bess (1911-1977) at the Whitney Biennial 2012, presents paintings alongside documents and images related to Bess’ theories around the uniting of the male and female within his own body. In the early 1960s Bess performed operations on his own genitalia, turning himself into a pseudo-hermaphrodite. He documented these operations and regularly wrote to friends, art critics and academics detailing his theories that fused the alchemical, with Jungian philosophy and Aboriginal ritual. In correspondence with his New York gallerist Betty Parsons he underlined a desire to exhibit his abstract-expressionist paintings alongside his medical theories, a desire that was never realized in his lifetime, but that is executed in the Whitney installation.