Dusti Bongé abstract expressionist paintings are what first attracted me to the artist. I saw them in an exhibition of her work at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans back in 2019. I was BLOWN AWAY. Her color, energy, brush stroke and compositions excited me.
How come I’d never heard of this artist before?
It was then that I started to understand the deep patriarchal – and racial and colonial – biases of the art world which I’d learn was not at all the egalitarian utopia I imagined it to be. It’s a world also still overwhelmingly dominated by New York collectors, galleries, museums and publications, which further does Dusti Bongé no favors.
This week’s partnership between See Great Art and the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation picks up on these themes with analysis, as always, from DBAF Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.
Dusti Bongé, Untitled (Black Trapezoid with Rouge), c. 1960, watercolor on paper, 26” x 20”
Earlier this summer an article in Hyperallergic points out the fact that the standard “story” of Abstract Expressionism is a lie, insofar that it is still largely ignoring the importance of its many female contributors. The author notes, “Women weren’t working on the peripheries, they were driving the movement forward.”
He points at several recent exhibits that are part of the ongoing effort to set the record straight. One of those exhibits was recently at the Huxley Parlour Gallery in London where they presented “Women and the Void: Abstract Expressionism on Paper.”
The above work on paper by Dusti Bongé was shown in this exhibit. Dusti, like the other women featured, did numerous works on paper, which allowed them to continually experiment with forms, colors and gestures. The latter in turn offered them ways to refer to, or express, conceptual themes.
Dusti, influenced by transcendental and Buddhist concepts, often referenced such concepts abstractly in her art, or at times in the works’ titles, or in her short poems.
If the above work had a title, we don’t know it. But perhaps a concept like the void, or the infinite unknown, is reflected in this composition. The presence of the central, dark, mostly solid, trapezoid nonetheless allows glimpses through to a lighter realm beyond. Dusti here inverts the typical foreground-background principles of light and dark. With a few powerful strokes she creates an unexpected sense of depth, both visually and metaphorically.