The Code Talker: Visionary Texas artist Forrest Bess gets a fresh re …

Painter, mystic, fisherman . . . Forrest Bess occupies a fascinating corner of American art, not to mention American history.

A visionary artist who worked in virtual isolation from an Gulf Coast island near Bay City, Texas, Bess landed himself a string of well-received New York shows in the 1950s and ’60s thanks to longtime support from art historian Meyer Schapiro and gallerist Betty Parsons, the noted early champion of Abstract Expressionism.

Taking into account his complex philosophic beliefs — which ultimately led to the artist’s surgical transformation into what he called a “pseudo-hermaphrodite” — the Menil Collection is reassessing Bess’ life and work through a series of 48 symbol-laden paintings dating from 1946 to 1970.

Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible, on display through Aug. 18, includes an additional installation of archival materials organized by artist Robert Gober, whose small exhibit on Bess at the 2012 Whitney Biennial helped to lift the artist from his longstanding status as a quirky outsider artist to that of a foundational

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