Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Roy De Forest, A Journey To The Far Canine Range And the Unexplored Territory Beyond Terrier Pass, San Francisco: Bedford Arts, 1988

This is a really wild and fantastic double-sided accordion illustrated with Roy De Forest's (1930-2007) usual cast of unusual characters — especially dogs with glowing eyes. A long time teacher at the University of California, Davis (1965-1992) he studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University. Individual page: 12" x 9", extended: 12' 6".
Researching this publication I came across a blog that described the genesis of this book by Stephen Vincent, who was an editor at Bedford Arts at the time. The text below is from Vincent's blog dated May 24, 2007 and he's announcing the death of Roy De Forest at the age of 77.  

"The way I met Roy, and the closest I got to knowing him, was through making a book together. This was about 1987 when I was the Director of Bedford Arts, Publishers. It was a well-funded Press (Real Estate was the source of its coin, and ultimately the cause of its sad downfall and closing in 1991). But for awhile I could bank my imagination on any book project that deemed my fancy. I was bound and determined to make a trade book with original art by artists in a format that would simultaneously function as an art object. After much research and investigation, I settled on the development of a unique design for an accordion-fold book that could also include a signature for an essay. (I was much assisted in the fulfillment of this process by an anonymous Japanese book design engineer at Dai Nippon Printing in Japan, Tom Ingalls, a local San Francisco designer and Hal Belmont at Overseas Printing, San Francisco).

This [sic] were big books. 12 1/4 inches high by 9 1/2 inches wide, the accordion fold panels extended out 13 panels, with art on each side. I invited Roy to be the first artist. I liked the playful characters in his work (the dogs, the eccentric characters, the folks you might run into on a run-down Western ranch), and I also sensed there was a storyteller in the works, somebody who could stretch a visual yarn through an extended space. We met in San Francisco in our first Offices on Pacific near Montgomery Street. I showed him the dummy accordion fold format. He did not speak much. But I liked the way his light blue eyes lit up. He agreed and then I did not hear from him for a couple of months, until one day I got a call that he was coming in with some work. And, indeed he did, two substantial rolls of art – like a scroll – one under each arm.

Each of the panels was 36 x 27 inches (to be reduced by a 1/3). When we stretched out each side of the book out into two rows of side by panels – the whole length of the office space – I was suddenly astonished that we were being presented with 58.5 feet of art. The work was like a neo-western panorama mountain campsite infused with a wonderfully crazy, color concotion of family surrounded by dogs, Indians, spooks, tall-tale mythical figures and what have you. When I asked him the title, he had written it out:

Journey To The Far Canine Range And The Unexplored Territory Beyond Terrier Pass
Roy, indeed, was a man of letters. He loved to collect and read books. He was particularly a student of the West, deeply imbued in the spirit and work of Mark Twain. I knew him as a quiet man, not given much to lengthly articulation. He talked through his work. A incredible draughtsman. Miriam Schapiro said to me once, “Roy can draw in his sleep.” In fact he probably did draw in his sleep!

In the brief period that I knew him, Roy was generous to a fault. Though a kind of career and success came to him, I do not think he was ever interested in manufacturing a career in the contemporary manner. I think he was always in it for the challenge and the pleasure of the work. One day there will be a big retrospective and people will go into it like going into a Red Grooms show and we will be able to get fully back into that imagination, that intense, otherworldly dog/eye energy – and we will again have, at least, something of what crossed Roy’s soul everytime he picked up a brush." Stephen Vincent

Here's a link to San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker's obituary of Roy De Forest. Roy De Forest

1 comment:

  1. Love his work. Love the format! De Forest painted with the freedom of a child, something lost to most of us as we grow older.