On Rob Bondgren’s recent work, or… diamonds are forever.
David J. Getsy, October 2010
Precious stones, gems, and jewels are coveted because they are beautiful, rare, and ultimately quite useless. Scarcity is key to degree to which they are valued. To extract even the tiniest drop of these precious materials, the earth has to be worked hard before it gives up its treasures. Motherlodes are the stuff of legend.
Rob Bondgren’s recent paintings and collages erupt from such covetousness. He transposes the desire attached to the beautiful and the rare to the men, and parts of men, that feature in his imagery. They become jewels themselves, and Bondgren’s often faceless objects of desire revel in their useless beauty even as these images urge us to see how dehumanizing such objectification can be. In turn, this association reveals the pearl drops, the bangles, the chokers, and the diamond studs, as well, to be corporeal, sexual, and pliant. Men and gems slide into each other in these works, all tied together in the discoball rays and kaleidoscope colors that flood the images. He seems to have used every hue, over-adorning his paintings with color after color. As with gems and jewels, too much can still be never enough. Bondgren has embraced this excess at heart of his imagery, covering his paintings with veils and rivulets of lurid colors that interpenetrate the images. This, too, he learned from diamonds, which shimmer because of the way they grip and bend light, holding it in. Bondgren’s deft use of watercolor and spray paint and his love of translucency found in them a perfect visual analogue. Jewels and gems are the starting point for Bondgren’s headlong displays of longing and lust, and he pushes through this imagery to arrive at works that seem, in part, to aspire to Walter Pater’s call to “burn always with this hard, gem-like flame.”