Dusti Bongé painting inspired by visit to Mexico

My favorite period of Dusti Bongé’s prodigious career is her Abstract Expressionist phase. I love the bold, gestural brushstrokes, the energy, the movement and color. Those are reasons why I love AbEx painting generally Joan Mitchell, Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock.

This week in SeeGreatArt’s partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation, we take a look at one of her Abstract Expressionist paintings inspired by time in Mexico.

Dusti Bongé Tecolutla, 1953 oil and tempera on Masonite, 27 ¾” x 20”. Paul Bongé Collection

This piece, Tecolutla, is not just a fine example from Dusti Bongé’s early Abstract Expressionist years, it also comes with some titling intrigue, and was inspired by her many visits to Mexico, one of which was a trip she made with her dear friend Betty Parsons. During those trips Dusti was always inspired by the visual riches Mexico offered. In fact, she did several paintings including one called Mexican Church, that express her immediate experience through a distinct color palette of natural and earthy tones, with markings reminiscent of Mesoamerican art.

Initially, this painting was catalogued under the title Tecol, based on an old partial label en verso of the painting. This title always remained a bit of a mystery as it sounded similar to Tikal, the well-known Mayan city in Guatemala, but was clearly spelled differently. When researching the work, we discovered that the label on the back, which was partially cut off, in fact had the letters “TECOLU” written on what remained of it. This brought about some sleuthing and the discovery that Tecolutla is a small town on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, close to the archeological site of El Tajín. 

Given this painting’s warm color palette, the year it was produced–it is actually signed and dated “Dusti Bongé” in the lower right–and the partial title on the cut-off label, we concluded that the likely title of this work was in fact Tecolutla.

Like in other works from this period, Dusti’s bold gestures are somewhat ideographic and she uses a rich range of browns, beiges, golds and shades of gray capturing the physical warmth of a unique place.

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