This work was in the exhibition 'A Villain's Origin Story' on view at Marianne Boesky Gallery, Aspen, Colorado. For the exhibition, Forrest presents a narrative group of seven paintings that examine experiences of Black Americans in the past and how these stories may intersect with the present day. Depicting elements from Aspen’s unique history, Forrest uses material and form to invite the viewer into important conversations about the past and present. A Villain's Origin Story is on view July 29 – September 12, 2021, on the first floor of the gallery.
Fundamental throughout Forrest’s practice is the examination of anxieties that result from underlying power structures. As a point of departure for A Villain’s Origin Story, Forrest explored the history of the “Quiet Years” in Aspen, a period marked by the economic downturn, hardships, and subsequent population decrease in the region beginning in the late 1800s. In particular, the artist focused on the story of one Aspen resident, Hannibal Brown. Through primary source interviews collated between 1893 – 1947 in the book Aspen: The Quiet Years, Forrest learned about Brown’s experience as the only Black man on record in Aspen for years during this period in the town’s history. For A Villain's Origin Story, Forrest narrows in on this feeling of isolation and its potential psychological impacts, weaving in references to past events with present lived experiences.
The use of narrative and materials in the works are fundamentally intertwined and hold equal weight in the exhibition. In A Villain's Origin Story, Forrest focuses on his use of Gorilla Glue, a material that he has implemented throughout his practice to create the sculptural dimensions and bold surfaces of his paintings. For instance, the starting point of the exhibition, Blue Bird, shows an innocent image of Hannibal Brown holding and playing with a bird. Evoking this naivety, Forrest applies simple lines of Gorilla Glue on the canvas that are unblended with areas of paint. This development of narrative and gradual expansion of the medium is seen as the exhibition progresses. In subsequent paintings, such as Hannibal or Drink the Koolaid, more mature images of the protagonist are accompanied by developed application of the glue medium, which the artist incorporates with layers of paint to form the raised lines of his figures. The narrative culminates in Dreaming of Revenge, the final image of a seemingly broken hero, wherein thin layers of glue are spread with paint to create rich fields of color. These seamless exchanges of material, narrative historical references, and current discourse are central to the artist’s works, allowing for questions surrounding the impact of social relations to arise.