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F. Scott Hess: The Seven Laughters of God and Other Paintings
March 12 - May 28, 2006
(above: F. Scott Hess, Soul, 2005, oil on canvas, 54 x 66 inches)
This exhibition features Los Angeles-based painter F. Scott Hess's newest series, The Seven Laughters of God and is accompanied by a 48-page fully illustrated exhibition catalog with essays by renowned art critic Donald Kuspit. It is the first major solo show at museum or gallery in Southern California in five years. Hess has been in two other exhibitions at the Museum, most recently Representing L.A.: Pictorial Currents in Southern California Art in 2001. The exhibition will add significantly to Hess's reputation in Southern California, especially in light of the resurgence in narrative and representational painting that has occurred in the last several years.
The Seven Laughters series is based on an ancient Egyptian creation myth that Hess first encountered in the Robertson Davies's novel, What's Bred in the Bone (Viking, 1985) and which tells the story of the creation of the world via a single "creator" god, who laughed seven times and created the seven lesser gods of Light, Firmament, Mind, Generation, Fate, Time, and Soul. These are the subjects that comprise the seven eponymous paintings in Hess's series.
Hess also employs the old master tradition of portraiture, whether it be of himself, his students, or his family, to explore, celebrate, and question the sacred moments of domestic and creative life-family, sex, popular culture, and art. It's this investigation into what it means to be an artist, a husband, and father that imbues Hess's works with force and tenderness, emotion and intellect.
In these works Hess tells the story of a young artist (the model is a former student of Hess's): In Light (2003), he paints illegal murals; in Firmament (2003), he stands naked above a pool; in Mind (2003), he is painting outside, surrounded by nature, and harassed by a mockingbird; in Generation (2004), he is a donor at a sperm bank; in Fate (2005), he presents slides of his work to an art dealer; in Time (2005), he steals an old master painting from a museum; and in Soul (2005), he shakes the hand of a wealthy collector at his successful first solo exhibition. His journey from innocent novice to successful careerist painter can be compared to William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress (1753). However, Hess's story is significantly more ambiguous and less overtly moral.
Other works in the show include the portrait of family life depicted in The Measure of Life and The Measure of Love (both 2004), the sexual curiosity and anxiety depicted in Riverbed and The Painter and His Daughter (both 2004), or the bestial, Rabelaisian high-jinks of The Mistress and Her Donkey (2003), all reveal the unconscious tensions inherent in our interpersonal relationships, our conscious and subconscious desires, and our need to create and nurture.
F. Scott Hess's work is represented in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; the San Jose Museum of Art; the Oakland Museum of California, and the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach. Hess has lived in Los Angeles since 1984 and teaches at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
Organized by Hackett-Freedman Gallery, San Francisco, California. Support for this exhibition has been provided by Kristin & Greg Escalante, and Jim & Fatemeh Burnes.
HESS RELATED EVENTS
Checklist for the exhibition
(above: F. Scott Hess, Light from The Seven Laughters of God series, 2003, oil on canvas, 54 x 66 inches)
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