Joyful Chaos: The Art of Roy De Forest

Drawing XVII (1974) | oil crayon and colored pencil on paper | Roy De Forest | Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1985

Born on this day February 11, 1930 in North Platte, Nebraska, Roy De Forest’s art is a vivid and vibrant expression of playful imagination, a joyful chaos that captivates the viewer with its whimsicality. A prominent figure in the post-war American art scene, De Forest’s work is characterized by its use of bright, bold colors and its depiction of fantastical landscapes populated by a myriad of fantastical creatures. His artwork often presents a visual narrative that draws the viewer in and encourages them to explore the rich tapestry of details within each piece.

The hallmark of Roy De Forest’s art is his ability to create a sense of organized chaos. Each element within his work, whether it be a dog, a human figure, or an abstract shape, seems to exist in its own world, yet these disparate parts come together to form a cohesive whole. His artwork is a celebration of the unpredictable and the imaginative, a testament to the joy that can be found in letting one’s mind wander beyond the confines of reality.

De Forest’s work is also notable for its use of texture. His paintings are characterized by their rough, almost tactile surfaces, the result of his unique method of layering and manipulating acrylic and polyvinyl acetate. This technique gives his work a distinct three-dimensionality that further enhances the viewer’s experience.

Roy De Forest’s art is an ode to the beauty of chaos and imagination. Each piece is a journey into a world where the rules of reality do not apply, where color and form are used to create narratives that are as captivating as they are unique. Through his work, De Forest invites us to embrace the unexpected and find joy in the chaos of creation.

Curated by Jennifer