LOUISE BONNET | New Works
MARCH 24 – MAY 5, 2018
LOUISE BONNET “NEW WORKS”
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist Louise Bonnet. This will be Bonnet’s second exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition will open Saturday, March 24, 2018 at 7313 Santa Monica Blvd and 1107 Greenacre Ave in West Hollywood, and will be on view until May 5, 2018. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, March 24, 2018 from 6 – 8 PM.
Exquisite Agonies: The Art of Louise Bonnet
The ever-expanding legions that inhabit the world of Louise Bonnet’s paintings embody an intriguing and bizarre duality; they tell us very little while manifesting a whole shit ton.
Noses swell up like Zeppelins and boomerang in the wind, toes and fingers writhe and twist around one another like baby rattlers in a nest, faces fold behind a slap, knees bend well beyond their breaking points. A face is comprised of a bulbous nose and a helmet-head of hair, wears a blouse, buttons ready to explode at any moment. One character wades in thigh-high water, bent at the waist, fastening a bikini-top secured by thick strands of rope, while another uses the very same gauge rope to batten down a wildly flailing nose. A giant head rests like a tripod, the pillars made of nose and two sides of hair. Nipples strain against a sweater in what one can only imagine must be near arctic temperatures.
Bonnet’s is a world of pulsing, sometimes even grotesque exaggerations, where beings inhabit traits that fluctuate in a kind of gender-blended state. Often alone, sometimes with a counterpoint, usually occupying the lion’s share of the composition, almost jammed within the framework of the canvas, with appendages acting more like geysers of feeling, manifesting from deep within. Think more beings functioning as psycho-emotional allegories wherein the inner agonies of plight emerge, baring themselves shamelessly for all the world to ponder.
Already favoring a life-size scaled canvas though as the work continues to evolve, Bonnet seems heading for even bigger. Notable with many of the artist’s figures is the absence of eyes. Bonnet’s reasoning is simple. The eyes, traditionally considered the windows into the soul, demand too much of the viewer’s attention. By taking that easy get off the table, Bonnet liberates us of the onus, encouraging, in the critical patois of Ab-Ex Champ Clement Greenberg, a more all-over assessment of the composition. I would say comparisons to that style of painting might not end there, either. Though Bonnet’s paintings, pragmatically-speaking, are rooted in the figurative, and are very much precisely and specifically rendered, the figures themselves read much more like Rorschach’s of inner states of being. Often an action, or a repeated gesture serves as inspiration for work (“I like a very controlled rage.”). Every canvas shows evidence of bending and pulling, pushing away, always evoking an air of tension and tautness. At the same time, the compositions are, also, very much rife with comedy, while never losing their exquisite agony. One early motif, tennis players, has been met by a frenzied reception and requests for more. But the artist assures me the country club cads are gone for good, “I have no connection to tennis players beyond the fact that I love uniforms.” Even more, Bonnet has zero desire to make her mark as the cute-tennis-player-painter.
As is often the case with a painter possessing of Bonnet’s talents and trafficking in vividly-rendered cartoonish scenes with sly nods to pop culture, there is the danger of almost too easily pleasing the crowd (Hearing this, the artist recalls hearing a recent quote to the effect of, “I’m not interested in art that’s trying to be friends with me.”). But even more so, taking a longer look at the work, it’s clear that merely scanning the sexy surfaces one misses the real stuff, much deeper down and a function of the artist’s hard-earned apprenticeship.
Growing up in Geneva, Switzerland, Bonnet’s tastes always leaned toward the vivid and graphic work of masters such as R. Crumb, Popeye, and Basil Wolverton. Embarking to art school in her hometown, she found herself equally drawn more toward the students of said aesthetic, at the same time, relishing the opportunity to engage in no-holds-barred critical dialogues, a ritual she continues to this day (“I always wanted to be part of a group like the Futurists or something.”). Upon completion of her studies, Bonnet headed out into the world, ending up in Los Angeles where she began working as a graphic designer, the whole time continuing to make drawings she mostly tagged as illustrations until, in 2008, when she was offered a show at LA’s Subliminal Projects. With a deadline hanging over her head, Bonnet found herself for the first time having to, “make paintings.” The works, all done on paper using acrylic paint, were portraits, poppy and flat and already very much showing the telltale signs of the artist’s askew sense of proportion. For Bonnet, the task of putting together an exhibit of paintings was a revelation, prompting an immediate end to her days as a graphic designer, so she could jump with both feet onto her newly limned path.
Over the next five years, Bonnet painted and began having studio visits. One visit, with the Australian artist Ricky Swallow, proved particular prescient when Swallow suggested Bonnet try using oil paint. Despite the tiniest hint of reticence — after all, only artists with a capital “A” dared use oil paint — Bonnet was ready. More and more she was finding that acrylic paint was falling shy of where she wanted to go and what she wanted to convey. Moving away from the flat quality of acrylic paint enabled Bonnet to lean deeper into her compositions — both from an aesthetic perspective as well as an emotional — plumbing lurid depths that gave the new canvases a vibrant chiaroscuro.
At the same, the introduction of oil paint into her repertoire seemed to trigger yet another resolution within Bonnet. Raised by laid-back hippies, the artist found herself often at loggerheads with the notion that her work somehow always had to exude a kind of loosey goosey quality. That, that was how mellow-minded people created. But it wasn’t working anymore. When it came to her art, Bonnet was much happier when she was making very exacting paintings. And, although she still likes to leave evidence of the hand in the work, Bonner does not want the brushstrokes themselves to mean too much. Or stand alone.
As mentioned earlier, Bonnet’s figures often take up almost the entire canvas. After that, there might be a few small but significant touches. Maybe a vest made of rope (rope shows up in many of Bonnet’s pieces, perhaps as a result of having a mountain climbing father), a shower nozzle, or, maybe a tree stump with a single branch containing barely two leaves. The earlier works played more nicely, contained stronger hints of illustrative qualities with nods to the likes of Guston or Saul. More recently, the paintings have begun to take on a much more muscular, minimal quality. The figures look more strained and uncomfortable, the limbs more contorted, the settings sparser and more starkly lit like post-punk odes to Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son.” Or maybe some creature that Odysseus had to wage war with on that long and perilous road back to Ithaca.
With her work evolving in both scope and scale, Bonnet remains steadfast in her desire to not over-think, at the same time, still allowing herself room for discovery and the possibility of the unknown. Educated artists have a tendency to get in their own way. Even more so, contends Bonnet, is her desire to keep on mining a favorite dilemma. “I mean… Boobs are weird. Testicles are weird. And yet they define us. What I really like is when our bodies betray us.”
Louise Bonnet (b. 1970, Geneva, Switzerland) has had solo exhibitions “New Works” at NINO MIER GALLERY, Los Angeles in 2018, “Wakefield Work” at Half Gallery, New York in 2017 and “Paintings” at NINO MIER GALLERY, Los Angeles in 2016. She has had work included in group exhibitions “10” at Anton Kern Gallery, New York (2018), “Summerfest” curated by Lauren Taschen at Max Hetzler Gallery, Berlin (2017), “Global Times Painting Painting To” curated by Alex Becerra at Half Gallery, New York (2016); “Giles” at Gagosian Gallery, Athens (2016); “Please Have Enough Acid in the Dish” organized by Vinny Dotolo at M+B, Los Angeles (2016); “Surrreal” at König Galerie, Berlin (2016); “The Mini Show” at The Lodge, Los Angeles (2015) and “New Works” at Subliminal Projects, Los Angeles (2008). Bonnet has an upcoming solo at Max Hetzler Gallery, Berlin (2018). Bonnet lives and works in Los Angeles.