Georges Bess: Tale of Unrealism to Open at Philippe Labaune Gallery in September




Georges Bess, Lieutenant Myrtille (Hommage a Jean Giraud), 2016-2017, pen and ink, forty-eight panels of paper. Framed dimensions 82 x 160 inches. Image courtesy of the gallery.

Philippe Labaune Gallery will open its doors to Tale of Unrealism ~ an exhibition featuring a selection of large-scale drawings and illustrations by French artist Georges Bess. This is the first time the artist will be exhibiting in the United States. Bess, an illustrator of comics and graphic novels, is recognized as a master of line and ink and his collaborations with renowned Chilean-French artist Alejandro Jodorowsky. In recent works, Bess breaks away from the parameters of the book, creating ornate world originating from a single page that he expands upon intuitively, in a trance-like state of drawing. Also on view will be a collection of original comic strips from Bram Stoker Dracula (2018) and his 1989 graphic novel Le Lama Blanc (The White Lama).

Within the large-scale drawings on view, Bess takes an approach akin to jazz improvisation. By beginning from a single mark on paper sprung from free association, a multi-paneled universe is forged. Bess approaches the work as a form of meditation where images are allowed to be born, morphed, or be held without consequence; to create a singular expression in its totality. The artist fills his drawings with details culled from cultures of Asia, baroque ornamentation, and bursts of flowering vegetation. In a style that Bess coins as naturalistic abstraction, the result appear to be suspended microcosms, brimming with a life of their own. The drawing Lieutenant Myrtille – Hommage a Jean Giraud borders on the scale of a mural, taking shape from a culmination of nearly fifty panels of paper. The drawing subtly pays tribute to his friend Jean Giraud’s, also known as ‘Moebius’, 1963 western graphic novel series Lieutenant Blueberry. Amorphous swirls of lifework ebb and flow into shapes of bone and tendon. Fluid lines of ink surround a composition of finely detailed skulls in which various flora, birds, and cherubs emanate. A figure atop a horse is stripped down to the sinews, floating in the dark and beautiful underworld of Georges Bess’ making.

Also on view will be original comic strips from the six-volume series Le Lama Blanc (The White Lama) (1988-1995), Les Humanoïdes Associés). In 1986, Bess began collaborating with Alejandro Jodoworsky; a creative partnership which resulted in the release of several series including: Le Lama Blanc (1988-1995, Les Humanoïdes Associés), Juan Solo (1995-2002, Les Humanoïdes Associés), and Anibal Cinq (1990-1992, Les Humanoïdes Associés). Bess and Jodoworsky’s Le Lama Blanc is an epic spiritual adventure based in 19th century Tibet for which Bess was both illustrator and colorist. Le Lama Blanc gamer the RTL Grand Prix in 1988 for its first volume.

In addition, original strips from Bess’ award-winning graphic novel Bram Stoker Dracula (2019, Glénat) will be on exhibition. When Bess began creating his intuitive-based large-scale drawings in the late 2010s, his publisher came across the works ~ and upon seeing the gothic, heavily inked drawings, immediately suggested that he adapt Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. Bess was fascinated by Dracula as a child and after accepting the project, spent the next two years with the assistance of his artist wife, Pia, crating the 200-page graphic novel. Released in 2019, it was nominated for Best Album at France’s Angoulême International Comics Festival 2020. When creating the pages, Bess continued in his style informed by intuition and improvisation. The result is a richly detailed Dracula that borders the styles of gothic, modern, and kitsch. The haunting visualization of Stoker’s novel is bathed in black and white, a decision Bess made emphatically, stating “it has a force.”

Georges Bess was born in Tunisia in 1947. After moving to France and attending art school in Paris, he relocated to Sweden in 1970. There, he began drawing comics for publications Dante, Mika, Pellafant, and Anderssonskans Kalle. From 1976 to 1987, Bess worked on “The Phantom” for the Swedish Fantomen comic book. The collaboration that began between Georges Bess and Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1986 spans over twenty years, resulting in over sixteen volumes of work being translated in over ten languages. Over his extensive career Bess has created over fourteen graphic novel works under his name. His works have been published by Casterman, Dupuis, Glénat, Les Humanoides Associés, among others. Bess’ work in comics have garnered awards including: Angoulême Comics Festival (Juan Solo, 1996); Salón Internacional del Cómic del Principáu d’Asturias, Spain (Best Cartoonist, 1993; Best Coverage, 2002; Grand Prize for entire work, 2012); and Special Jury Prize at the Festival Imaginales d’Epinal (Bram Stoker Dracula, 2019). Outside of comics, his recent large-scale drawings have been exhibited in galleries throughout France and Spain. Bess currently resides in Paris.

Georges Bess: Tale of Unrealism will be on view from September 9 to October 5, 2021, with Opening on September 9 from 11am to 9pm. Philippe Labaune Gallery is located at 534 West 24th Street, Ground Floor, NYC.