Roy De Forest’s (1930–2007) freewheeling vision, treasured for its combination of dots, dogs, and fantastical voyages, made him a pillar of Northern California’s artistic community for more than fifty years. Born in 1930 to migrant farmers in North Platte, Nebraska, De Forest and his family fled the dust bowl for Washington State, where he grew up on the family farm in the lush Yakima Valley, surrounded by dogs and farm animals, frequent subjects in his imaginative, exploratory works. A graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, De Forest studied under Elmer Bischoff and Hassel Smith, artists who encouraged De Forest to challenge the heroism of Abstract Expressionism. De Forest quickly became involved with San Francisco’s nascent Beat community, and supplemented his formal education with seminars, conversations, and exhibitions at venues like the King Ubu and East & West galleries, where he became close with artists Joan Brown, Manuel Neri, Jay DeFeo, Wally Hedrick, Jess, and Deborah Remington, among others.
Revolt of the Giant Boy depicts a larger-than-life-sized figure supporting his weight on a staff held in his left hand while wielding a big stick with the other. Executed in 1987, thirteen years after his retrospective exhibitions at SFMOMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art, this highly imaginative composition is filled to the brim with the artist’s characteristic use of Hershey Kiss-like dots, and familiar subjects including dogs, wandering figures, and rudimentary faces in profile.