In October, Hollis Taggart gallery in New York will open “Kinship: Dusti Bongé and Betty Parsons.” It is the first exhibition to explore the close relationship between artist Dusti Bongé and legendary gallerist and artist Betty Parsons. Bongé had a long and varied career, creating works that in different moments engaged with Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. Bongé was deeply connected to the New York art scene from the 1950s through the 1970s, with Parsons’ famed gallery giving her five solo shows and including her in two group presentations alongside such Abstract Expressionist icons as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Clyfford Still, and Mark Rothko.
Bongé’s work is underrecognized in today’s art historical narratives, despite the success she had in her lifetime. This may be the result of her decision to live and work on the Gulf Coast, rather than making a permanent move to New York.
At SeeGreatArt, we’re working with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation in Biloxi, MS to help raise awareness around Bongé’s career.
The forthcoming exhibition at Hollis Taggart will feature 35 works by Bongé, reintroducing audiences to all parts of her career, as well as 15 works by Parsons, most of which were gifted to Bongé throughout their friendship and have never been seen before. It will also feature archival material, such as vacation photographs from the duo’s travels to Mexico and the Gulf Coast.
This week for our partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation, we look back at the artist’s first museum retrospective. Analysis, as always, comes from DBAF Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.
Exhibition Poster for “The Art of Dusti Bongé: A Retrospective at Walter Anderson Museum of Art,” 1995, paper poster, 17” x 11”.
In 1995, the year the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation (DBAF) was founded, there was a retrospective exhibit of Dusti Bongé’s work at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) in Ocean Springs, MS, the neighboring town to Biloxi. The Museum had opened its doors just a few years earlier in 1991.
The poster featured a late work by Dusti Bongé, Untitled (Black Rectangle and Purple Circle), 1985, watercolor on paper, 8 1/2” x 5”, from the Paul Bongé Collection. This small painting has a certain minimalist quality in its use of color and composition: a field of orange with a watery, purply black circle, a black rectangle and three black dots. The rectangle mostly overlaps the circle, and the dots are contained within both.
The image of the work on the poster is actually to scale, showing the graphic impact of its simple composition. During that year Dusti produced well over 150 small watercolor paintings, all together presenting an astounding array of variations on a compositional theme of lines, curves, waves, rectangles, and circles.
It somehow seems fitting that Dusti’s first retrospective was at WAMA. Dusti and her husband Archie were good friends with the naturalist painter Walter Anderson. Archie had met Walter while they were both studying art on the East Coast at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia and at the Art Students League in New York during the mid to late 1920s.
Walter later served as the best man at the wedding in 1928 in Dusti’s hometown of Biloxi. At the time Walter had just moved back to Ocean Springs, to join the rest of his family and pursue his career. A few years later Dusti and Archie would also move back to the coast.Dusti BongéFemale artist
Paul BongeJuly 27, 2022
What is so interesting about Arch and Walter is that they met in Philadelphia but until Arch and Dusti reunited in New York after meeting in Chicago briefly, neither had any idea the one knew the other in regard to Walter. Dusti having grown up on the Gulf Coast had known Walter since they were children, and it was serendipity indeed when Dusti realized so to speak: Wait your best man is Walter? I’ve known him all my life! This is directly from Dusti to me, Paul Bongé her grandson.