Cosima von Bonin: Character Appropriation

May 6, 2011 - August 1, 2011
Kemper Art Museum, Garen Gallery

Conceptual artist Cosima von Bonin’s creative practice is distinguished by an exceptional interweaving of sculpture, installation, video, textiles, music, performance, and her own social network. Extensive biographical allusions and art-historical references, particularly to conceptual and minimalist artistic practices, abound in her work, but she also draws on a broad range of topics and fields, from fashion and popular culture, to theater and electronic music. Von Bonin’s choice of materials (fabric, stuffed animals), scale (often oversized), motifs (mushrooms, bull dogs, sea creatures, cartoon characters), and eclectic subject matter (luxury-based lifestyle branding, American pop culture, and sloth), each carry with them personal associations, yet they also bear larger socio-cultural connotations, such as the ubiquity of consumerism, gender inequality, and increased social apathy or malaise.

Inspired by the Kemper Art Museum’s acquisition of von Bonin’s ROCKSTARS (CHARACTER APPROPRIATION)—an early textile “painting” made of wool, cotton, and loden with the gender-bending cover image from American pop stars Daryl Hall and John Oates’s 1975 self-titled album stitched into the fabric—this exhibition presents a constellation of von Bonin’s works from major American collections in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Saint Louis. The exhibition roughly spans the last decade of the artist’s career, including a selection of her textile “paintings,” her signature sculptures and outsized stuffed animals, as well as her latest pieces that embrace themes of idleness and mental and physical fatigue.

This exhibition is curated by Meredith Malone, associate curator.

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Exhibition catalog

Character Appropriation will be accompanied by an illustrated catalog featuring an essay by Malone as well as a new installment in a series of scripted conversations between von Bonin and Daffy Duck, written by von Bonin’s longtime collaborator Dirk von Lowtzow, a Berlin-based musician and art critic.

About the artist

Born in 1962 in Mombasa, Kenya, von Bonin lives and works in Cologne. In 2010, the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, presented The Fatigue Empire, a comprehensive one-person exhibition of the artist’s recent works. It was shortly followed by von Bonin’s Lazy Susan Series, A Rotating Exhibition, with venues at the Witte de With Rotterdam (October 2010 to January 2011); Arnolfini Bristol (February to April 2011); MAMCO, Geneva (June to September 2011); and Museum Ludwig, Cologne (July to October 2011).

Von Bonin’s first major U.S. survey, Roger and Out, opened in 2007 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Other institutional one-person exhibitions have taken place at Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (2004); Kunstverein Hamburg, Germany (2001); Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2000); and Kunsthalle St. Gallen, Switzerland (1999). In addition, von Bonin has participated in group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Les Abbatoirs in Toulouse, France; and Documenta XII in Kassel, Germany, among many others.

Her work is included in many notable collections worldwide, including the Tate Britain in London; the Museum für Neue Kunst im ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany; and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

Exhibition support

Support for the exhibition is provided by James M. Kemper, Jr.; the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation; John and Anabeth Weil; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.