Gallery Y and Gallery X: Loretta Bourque & Rob Bondgren, “Bourque, Bondgren and bourbon”
July 11, 2014 – August 16, 2014
Opening Reception: Friday, July 11, 6-9pm
Linda Warren Projects is pleased to present the gallery’s summer exhibition, “Bourque, Bondgren and bourbon,” a two-person collaborative exhibition featuring gallery artists Loretta Bourque and Rob Bondgren. The two artists have long been colleagues, dear friends and artistic kindred spirits, and here, their collaboration is given an official moniker of shared authorship, “bourbon” –a combination of their surnames, a reference to the uninhibited nature of their making processes, and a nod to the seedy, smoky sexiness inherent in the content that they both embrace. “Bourque, Bondgren and bourbon” features collaborative works authored by “bourbon,” as well as individual works by Bourque and by Bondgren.
Drawing from her formative years spent in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Loretta Bourque freely alludes to the sexuality, costume, pageantry and underlying uncanniness of that environment, as well as a strict Catholic upbringing. With her unique combination of collage, paint and photo transfer, Bourque recreates the surreal aura that permeates the memories of her childhood, decisively challenging boundaries of sexual identity and notions of morality. Images of strip club signage, humans in animal costumes, men in drag, religious iconography and Louisiana storefronts are layered upon each other in Bourque’s work –a cacophony of the artist’s own visual language established from an upbringing she understood as “the norm,” when in reality, it was likely very far from typical.
Rob Bondgren shares with Bourque an interest in the outward expression of identity and sexuality. Bondgren’s work has long been engaged with various facets of gay culture, in particular the way in which individuals use digital and social media to craft images of themselves to project to others. In the artist’s collage and digital photo works, sensual male bodies are adorned with jewelry and flora, an age-old practice loaded with both biological and sexual connotations. Bondgren references digital hook-up culture, using Grindr-style talk bubbles, actual photos culled from phone apps, and images reminiscent of online profile pics. A vivid palette and layered imagery create a complex reflection on communication and representation in this particular subset of gay male culture.
Bourque and Bondgren began making collaborative work as early as the late 1990s. The artists began a practice of mailing small paintings back and forth to one another other, each alternately adding to the works upon receiving them. The works in this exhibition, created under the collaborative name “bourbon,” are recent pieces from 2012 to the present, and reflect the pact Bourque and Bondgren made that “anything goes,” and any censoring is left to the end. The artists share imagery, both found and made, unapologetic, nostalgic, religious and campy. In works like Martini Stripper, a male dancer with his face obscured pulls at the waistband of his thong and a clown-masked figure gapes at the viewer, while a martini glass of jewels threatens to spill over the composition. The “bourbon” pieces in this exhibition are a no-holds-barred, liberated approach to the deeply personal content at the core of these two artists’ practices. —
Originally from New Orleans, Bourque received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA in Painting from the University of California at Davis. Bourque has an extensive exhibition record including exhibitions at Danforth Museum of Art, MA; White Columns in NY; Morehead State University in KY; Center for Contemporary Art in CA; Evanston Art Center in IL; and Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. She is the recipient of a number of fellowships, awards and residencies including the Roger Brown River House Residency, the Vermont Studio Center Residency and the Earle C. Anthony Fellowship from the University of California, Davis. Bourque is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s department of Contemporary Practices, and she currently lives and works in Chicago.
Chicago-based artist Rob Bondgren was born in Buffalo, NY, and received his BFA and MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Bondgren’s work has been featured in venues including Peregrine Program in Chicago, Lennox Contemporary in Toronto, Louisiana State University, and McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA. The artist has been awarded residencies such as SAIC Roger Brown Faculty/Staff Residency in New Buffalo, MI, and the Professional Artist Residency at Ox-Bow Summer School of Art and Artists’ Residency in Saugatuck, MI. Currently, Bondgren is the Dean of Continuing Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.