The Russian artist, who is also a fashion designer and a gallerist, loves the human form, particularly when it is bathed in color. He uses a striking palette that includes bright hues in electrifying pop art-like combinations. His work is often figurative, even when it doesn’t appear as such. In I Want This Fur (2014), brushy, abstract fields of variegated color resemble not only a multi-colored fur coat, but also two people eying that fur as prize. They point, contort, converse, and even compete. Bondarev’s color, applied in small, Impressionist-like dashes, becomes a metaphor for the fur itself, and the image gains weight and space through the bright blue ground that serves as its backdrop.
Three other paintings also focus on the desirability of fashion, specifically a pair of red shoes. Red Shoes in Red Jelly (2014), Dance Model (2014), and Faun (2014) each show the power of a pair of heels. In the first painting, the shoes elevate their wearer to the point of flying. Her disembodied legs float on a field of red and pink forms, as if over the heads of envious onlookers. Dance Model makes a similarly ecstatic gesture, showing the complete figure of a model dancing in the same pair of red heels set against a background resembling neon lights: bright reds, blues, yellows, and pinks in expressionist swaths. Special attention is directed at the shoes, which are surrounded in a bulbous crimson shadow. Finally, Faun takes its name from a mythological creature, and the young woman who wears the shoes looks aptly feral. She wears horns and her body is curved around her prize, her hands cast over the slippers in fierce protection.
The theme of mythology appears in Bondarev’s Gorgoga (2014), which depicts the decapitated head of a Gorgon, a female creature with hair of living snakes, such as Medusa. The color red underpins much of the painting, covered by white clouds and flesh, but peeking through in places to give the entire image a sense of danger. The beautiful face of the Gorgon, held aloft by an anonymous hand, looks beseechingly at the viewer as red blood drips from her neck and red-and-black snakes writhe in her hair. Her painterly, photorealistic face is highlighted by the graphic simplicity of the snakes.
Bondarev shows the excitement, power, and danger of fashion. His painted explorations of its influence are arousing, at times frightful, and invite us in while warning us of the potential consequences.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory