The Pit is delighted to present a two-person exhibition of paintings by Roy De Forest (1930-2007) and Howard Fonda. Generations apart, their works harmonize in their playful aesthetics and open intentions; they share interests in animal motifs, the creation of meaning through process, and visionary realities—a demonstration of De Forest’s influence on Fonda’s unique approach to imaginal invention. The exhibition will be on view at The Pit Los Angeles from September 23 - October 28, 2023 with an opening reception on Saturday September 23 from 5-7 pm.
In direct response to De Forest’s paintings on view, Fonda focuses his paintings on perching animals (birds especially) and still lifes. He constructs them with a unique pairing of marks: one a squiggle and waveform hybrid, the other a “spot”—and some wavering lines or dashes in between. With this limited arsenal, Fonda describes and models his subjects. In the former, he adorns objects and animals; and in the latter—with the help of color temperature—he articulates space through modulating the thickness of marks and their density. Their byproduct is a unique rhythmic motion, organizing a web of subtle references—such as groupings of species that populate places he has lived, or dearly regarded objects through centuries—all of which suggest a diary of interests and experiences. But it’s his intention and method of creation that guides his paintings, not pre-conceived appearances. They start from a backbone, a framework, and veer into the unknown, landing wherever they may.
Roy De Forest had once said that he would “put a bunch of lines down [and] see how the lines relate to each other . . . very much like building a house . . . you take these different physical constructs and build a network that may represent something.” De Forest is known for having made open-ended pictorial structures, allowing happenstance and mélanges of memories to guide his way. Like Fonda, he often cribbed his subject matter from his life story, whether it be his dogs, his mother’s crazy quilts, or the farm animals with which he grew up in Yakima, Washington in the early 20th century. His life story is encoded in his paintings as much as the bevy of modernist styles that served as his stylistic vocabulary—much like Fonda’s squiggly waveforms and spots. Many artists seek to depict their “inner world,” but De Forest made it a point to get lost in it, embracing his wandering impulse to find an image that fit the paint he used, not the other way around.
Fonda and De Forest tap into this ethos to discover new imagery for themselves. We find Fonda paying forward what De Forest, an associate of California Funk or Nut art, addressed—the seriousness of art made in an unserious way––while hewing to the virtues of workmanship and craft. Fonda pays forward the aesthetic of insecurity, not knowing to what image the paint is pointing, but treading forward anyway, allowing personal anecdotes and studio experience to underwrite a fruitful landing.