The figures that populate Louise Bonnet’s paintings and works on paper walk a line between beauty and ugliness, between absurdist, knockabout comedy and extreme psychological and physiological tension. Inhabiting sparse, eerie landscapes and boxed in by the edges of the canvas or the page, they act out dramas of profound discomfort that plumb the depths of the artist’s subconscious. Drawing on a range of sources, from Old Master painting to Surrealism and underground comix, Bonnet toys with signifiers—of gender and sexuality in particular—in a playfully confrontational style. Her subjects are at once monumental in scale and diminished in capacity, their limbs grotesquely bloated and their eyeless faces partially obscured by dense caps of hair.
Bonnet was born in Geneva, where she attended the Haute école d’art et de design. In 1994 she moved to Los Angeles for “a year off” and never left. In 2008, having worked in illustration and graphic design, she launched her career as an artist with a solo exhibition at Subliminal Projects in Los Angeles, a gallery and project space founded by Shepard Fairey and Blaize Blouin. Five years later a move from acrylic paint into oils led Bonnet to new creative possibilities by allowing her to introduce a greater sense of light and volume to otherwise stark compositions. The change of medium also heralded a diversification and sharpening of themes and references; still focused on depicting the human body in extremis, she intensified her approach, combining the mordant wit of Philip Guston with the nuanced chiaroscuro of Caravaggio.
The representation of sex in Bonnet’s work is characterized by manic exaggeration and physical restraint. It also has a dreamlike quality that recalls such disturbing concoctions as René Magritte’s The Rape (Le viol) (1934), in which a nude female torso is recast as a face, and Hans Bellmer’s controversial sculptures of pubescent female dolls. Gender in Bonnet’s work is usually either overstated through cartoonlike inflation or left indeterminate, allowing the figures to function as universal stand-ins for unconscious drives and anxieties. In some images, this signature approach to the human figure is combined with an exploration of Christian imagery and its history in European painting.
Louise Bonnet: Sphinxes
Ali Subotnick investigates the artist’s surreal new series of drawings.
Louise Bonnet: The Hours
The artist describes her new body of work from her Los Angeles studio.
Five Films: Louise Bonnet
Los Angeles painter Louise Bonnet reminisces about the films that influenced her development as an artist.
Filmmaker and author Miranda July joined Louise Bonnet on a video call to discuss life during lockdown, the luminosity of oil paint, and Bonnet’s forthcoming exhibition of new work. Longtime friends—and newly neighbors—the two reflect on their shared history and shared interests in the unconscious, vagueness, and the mixture of humor and pain.
Art Basel Hong Kong 2021
May 21–23, 2021, booth 1d30
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong with a presentation of modern and contemporary painting and sculpture by gallery artists. New paintings by Georg Baselitz, Alex Israel, Ed Ruscha, and Sarah Sze are featured alongside exceptional works in a range of mediums by Louise Bonnet, Theaster Gates, Henry Moore, Nam June Paik, and others, uncovering formal and conceptual innovations and associations that span genres and aesthetic approaches.
Georg Baselitz, Noch ein Orangenesser, 2020 © Georg Baselitz
Show Me the Signs
November 10–30, 2020
Show Me the Signs is an online benefit auction hosted by Artfizz to support the families of Black women killed by the police. Over 100 artists have created pieces in the form of protest signs for the auction, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the African American Policy Forum’s #SayHerName Mothers Network. Work by Louise Bonnet, Piero Golia, Meleko Mokgosi, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, and Nancy Rubins is included. To register to bid, visit artfizz.com.
Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Breonna Taylor, 2020 © Nathaniel Mary Quinn