Bratsa Bonifacho: SKALAMERIJA at Foster/White

Bratsa Bonifacho Skalamerija 77
Skalamerija 77 – 2012 – oil on canvas – 72 x 84 in.

Bratsa Bonifacho’s show entitled Skalamerijais varied and at times uneven, but it offers plenty of striking and mysterious images. Bonifacho’s substrate (typography and soundbites) calls to mind the chaos of mass media—of a world constructed of narratives that overlap and plagiarize each other, yet remain disparate. Artists hold a mirror up to their audience on all subjects, but if an artist only indulges the narcissism of the age and doesn’t reveal a way out—some elevated perspective—they can’t really be said to have done a good job. This is no easy task, and it is even easier to become part of the “noise and haste” when one’s subjects is the “noise and haste” itself.

Bratsa Bonifacho  POS-79R0

Bratsa Bonifacho – POS-79R0 – 2011 – oil on canvas – 60 x 42 in.

Some of Bonifacho’s best works turn shards of unsaturated color and shattered soundbites into a jagged stretch of badlands. This provides a kind of order to the chaos while tacitly implying that all is not well in this world of words. Some “landscapes” recall volcanoes and strip mines, quakes and sinkholes, twilight realms punctuated by bits of color that look more toxic than enticing in this context.

He provides a different sort of order in more gridded works. Visitors are greeted by Lucidus Ordo—titled after a phrase from Horace simply translated as “lucid arrangement.” Horace was not speaking of a spatial arrangement, but a textual one. He was calling for authors to bite off only a chewable amount of material, to select subjects that they had power enough to express effectively. If they did this, what would follow would be eloquence and lucidus ordo. According to Horace, this required one to include what was necessary and omit what was not, and if one attempted to capture great and expansive subjects, one required judgment and keenness of thought equal to the task.

Bratsa Bonifacho Lucidus Ordo

Bratsa Bonifacho – Lucidus Ordo – 2010 – oil on canvas – 36 x 36 in.

In Bonifacho’s painting, the order certainly seems to be more concerned with the spatial relation of words and their remnants. There are no complete words (let alone thoughts), and the coloration (attractive as it is) offers no insight into deciphering the hodgepodge of characters. It’s a rather perfect introduction to the show: At once we are confronted with a concept taken out of context (Lucidus Ordo) that in its original message was calling for a clarity and economy of language controlled by trained minds. One is entering a symbolic landscape corrupted and overrun by propaganda, pollution, and poor-practice.

Parts of that landscape are more effectively rendered than others, but overall Bonifacho’s effort to capture the chaos have proved effective. He has captured only one corner of the chaos, but he has done so with skill equal to the task. But on the note of context, there is a lesson here about how well pieces can function individually rather than at home among other works. If one evaluates all the works individually, some seem to fall flat though they are well placed among the other pieces. Two in this category form a pair of sorts: PU589-VOF and Pro et Conta. They are dazzling to the eye (hellacious word searches in blue and black and black and white, respectively) and they are the sort of graphic work that could be rather easy to place in a home. The bluish murk of PU589-VOF makes it more effective than its neighbor. However, it simply does not have the content or impact that the others have.

This statement is not an attack on the work or the artist. It is simply a statement of fact that seems peculiarly apropos in discussing a show about context and making a cogent whole from a field of fragments. If anything, it is a call for the audience to take care in evaluating works of art (or the information they receive from any source) in a larger context. And on a more pressing note, it is a tacit recommendation that you go see these works for yourself while they are all in one place.

SKALAMERIJA is on view at Foster/White through October 27.

Bratsa Bonifacho – PU589-VOF – 2011 – oil on canvas – 42 x 42 in.