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Roy De Forest

American
(1930–2007)

Construction


1961

Wood, carpet, and oil paint
22 x 18 x 3 in. (55.88 x 45.72 x 7.62 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation
2001.53

Roy De Forest is best known for his whimsical paintings of wild-eyed, pointy-eared dogs frolicking in crazy-quilt jungles, but he was also a pioneering force in the California assemblage movement. In 1960 he suddenly burst onto the San Francisco scene with a subspecies of that movement all his own, which he called “boardism.” Reviewing his debut at the Dilexi Gallery, Dean Wallace of the “San Francisco Chronicle” enthused: “He takes boards, sticks, and irregular scraps of wood, other miscellaneous materials, just about every hue of paint known to man, and in a frenzied delight of creativity whips out some of the wiggiest, most utterly delightful works of art that have graced gallery walls within my recent memory.”

Among De Forest’s early found object wall sculptures, Construction marks a pivotal moment in his evolving identity as a maverick working against mainstream East Coast currents, where abstract expressionism was still dominating the art magazines. With hard-edge abstraction, minimalism, and pop on the rise, this work’s playful spotting, striping, and “canvas” consisting of a paint-splattered shaggy rug announce an irreverent turn away from what he called the “tragic grandeur” and “heavy duty Protestant” tendency of the painting he had produced while studying at the California School of Fine Arts under the influence of Clyfford Still, the local éminence grise of abstract expressionism.

De Forest referred to his junk sculptures as “constructions” to distinguish them from the decidedly darker sensibility of Bruce Conner and other beat movement assemblage artists in the Bay Area. Like his subsequent work, this construction pulsates with a multiplicity of elements, achieving his aim of a maximalist aesthetic opposed to the increasingly reductive trend ascendant in New York.

Susan Landauer


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