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There’s a scene, maybe several, in an old Bette Davis movie, The Letter, where Davis walks slowly towards the camera, an overcoat perched on her shoulders while a well-manicured hand points a pistol forward from between the cuts of fabric. Her figure cuts a triangular shape, constricted by the beauty standards of her time, and perhaps all time: clothes that force a body to fit them instead of the other way around. Louise Bonnet’s figures—male and female, if they can be said to contour to recognizably gendered forms—lean more towards Roger Rabbit, or Death Becomes Her. Her current show at Nino Mier Gallery places a heavy emphasis on cartoonish disfiguration and exaggeration: fun, campy, and menacing all at once.
Bonnet’s oil on linen paintings and colored pencil on paper studies depict contorted, blown-up limbs and bodies, usually with protrusions or seamless hair bobs taking the place of a face. The Satin Sheet and The Gold Chain (all works 2018) feature a similar blonde helmet, seemingly the back of the head of some put-together socialite. In the former, the figure’s tube-like breasts act as a delicate shelf for a green satin sheet which it seems even the slightest movement would disturb. The figure is broad-shouldered; who knows what’s on her mind. The Gold Chain features a sharp mono-nipple cutting an outlined projection into the surface of a form-fitting brown turtleneck. Elsewhere, The Cane Chair and The Stump feature limbs and noses wildly bursting out of scale and contour, as if overcoming some primal repression.
Bonnet’s figures grow and protrude at random, as if given over to some terrifying mixture of cell division and libido. Exaggeration is both prevailing aesthetic and ultimate goal. The Cyclops shows a figure contorted into what might be a yoga pose, standing ankle deep in a wavy indication of water; tapering arms reach behind to hold the strings of a sheer bikini, heavy breasts pointing straight down. Bonnet’s bodies are absurd; their unnatural contortions suggest that having a body in the first place might be the deeper absurdity.
Louise Bonnet: New Works runs March 24-May 5, 2018 at Nino Mier Gallery (7313 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046)