Franklin Parrasch Gallery is pleased to present Sets and Sutures, an exhibition of works by Forrest Bess (b. 1911- d. 1977), early works by John McLaughlin (b. 1898- d. 1976), and new works selected in response to the above by contemporary artist Justin Lieberman (b. 1977), with the thesis that, in mapping a trajectory of iconoclasm, a fidelity to content necessitates a betrayal of form.

The small-scale paintings of Forrest Bess emanate a powerful radiant energy in an inverse relationship to their scale. They are known and revered primarily within a small but dedicated cadre of championing observers. As an island-dwelling bait fisherman off the coast of Bay City, Texas, Bess fished by day and painted by night. His paintings directly reflected and recorded his nocturnal visions, which he would then attempt to decode and understand, engaging in nothing less than a full on pursuit of the meaning and origins of human existence. During his most productive twenty years, Bess made a number of sojourns to New York City in the 1950s and 60s (coinciding with his six solo shows at Betty Parsons Gallery) and traveled little elsewhere.

John McLaughlin arrived at his painting career relatively late in life and without the primer of art school training. Having the benefit of a period of protracted contemplation and the experiences of travel abroad (both as a civilian and as a military intelligence officer), as well as a honed understanding of Eastern thought and art, McLaughlin moved into painting in the mid-1940s. His early works approach pictorial representation from a post-Malevich construct in an all-consuming path to eliminate the image. His earliest examples, the works focused upon in this show, approach the concept of eliminating subject by depicting images of the spaces that surround recognizable forms.

A possible kinship between the works of Forrest Bess and John McLaughlin is attested to and illuminated by Justin Lieberman in a lively and provocative text to be included in the catalogue. In the installation, Lieberman, for his part, seeks to problematize the reverential attitude towards the work of these artists, supplanting it with the alternative of a continuing use-value. Sets and Sutures posits the kinship between Bess and McLaughlin’s work while simultaneously proposing a materially viable means for the continuation of a project centered on the expression of universal truths.

For images, biography, and further information please contact the gallery at or at 212-246-5360 Tue–Sat, 10am – 6pm.

franklin parrasch gallery
20 west 57 street
t 212-246-5360 f 212-246-5391