Critics’ Picks

Cosima von Bonin, OPEN YOUR SHIRT PLEASE 7, 2019, metal and plush toys, 56 x 55 x 39".

Mexico City

Cosima von Bonin

House of Gaga | Mexico City
Amsterdam 123, Col. Condesa
May 18–August 3, 2019

Cosima von Bonin, as most familiar with her art already know, works from her bed. From there, she undertakes a collaborative process with craftspeople, modeling artists, musicians, and, in this case, her gallerists to bring her works to fruition. “Shit and Chanel,” her first exhibition in Mexico, could well be the materialization of a collective nightmare: The artist has filled the gallery with plush animal figures in comical situations of entrapment—physical, psychological, or otherwise.

The show takes as its point of departure an anxiety-ridden GIF, in which Daffy Duck tries to avoid being guzzled by an amorphous black entity. This Sisyphean task arcs across four black canvases placed at various heights on wooden structures—one of which blocks the large windows that connect the gallery space to the street, mimicking Daffy’s claustrophobic situation. Another, more fragmented tale is scattered across the gallery, narrated through nuclei of stuffed animals that are, imaginatively, the artist’s surrogates: Lobster claws try to escape from a crocheted cement mixer; smiling pigs are confined (snuggling or suffocating?) inside a steel-wire cement mixer (which could double as a birdcage or raffle drum); and another porcine squad rests on a metal plate, its members travestied into beached mermaids—a “motionless ballet of cake slices,” according to the gallery text. The associations are cozy but alienating, whelmed by desolation.

If the recurring appurtenances of sexual and civil submission—oversize handcuffs and inflatable flail maces used in BDSM practices—add no coherent thread to von Bonin’s story, they do reveal that something somber lurks beneath the surface. A certain sense of identification lingers, as Daffy Duck’s struggle against the darkness—against his own erasure—might well be that of the artist or, conceivably, our own.