Louise Bonnet as the Vagabond
"It's true that sometimes I've had to explain what my paintings were not about," Los Angeles-based, Swiss-born painter Louise Bonnet told me a few years back in her interview in Juxtapoz. That's a great insight into the part of an artist's practice that often we as writer's take for granted. The talking about what the work isn't. Bonnet is a rare painter where when the pandemic began, you got the sense that her characters in the works would be telling you about their experiences, that they would illicit even more a conversation about who they were. What these paintings weren't wouldn't be an option, it was about what they (and we) were becoming.
For her third solo show at Nino Mier, Bonnet titled the show Vagabond after Agnès Varda’s classic film of the same name, the one in which the "enigmatic drifter named Mona who freely traverses the French countryside guided by her own intuition." Taking a step back, our last year was the complete opposite and yet exactly the same: we drifted and yet went nowhere. Intuition was suspended and heightened. Bonnet is working here, in dichotomies and comparisons, her characters tighter than ever and more tense. They seem to be struggling with a conversation and more clenched with each other. Some of the works are set in expansive outdoor settings, and yet still capture a feeling of being "wound up."
Bonnet once told me her works were meant to be looked at with a touch of humor, but Vagabond seems to have a bit more of a somber, almost intimate relationship with the characters that comes from a place of care or as Susan Thompson notes in her essay on the show, a place of "empathy for their pain and respect for their privacy." We all had moments of uncomfortable self-reflection in these times, and Bonnet captures what it was we lost when our ability to wander had to evolve, and Vagabond is the perfect embodiment of this new phase of our collective existence. —Evan Pricco