Tuesday, August 9, 2022

From the Magazine: Best Pictures

The series that has been consuming many of Palm Beach artist Bonnie Lautenberg’s creative impulses over the past five years started on a lark. In 2017, she began “fooling around” on Google, searching images of one of her favorite movies, 1961’s “Splendor in the Grass.” She found a film still of actors Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty and placed it atop an image of Jasper Johns’ oil painting “Map,” a blustery, drippy portrayal of a U.S. map completed the same year.

“My assistant Michael thought, what is she doing?” Lautenberg recalls. “Not that I thought there was a correlation between these two; it was just one of my favorite artists, and a favorite movie.”

The concept lingered, and as of this year, Lautenberg has completed more than 85 such marriages between pop cinema and fine art dating back to 1928, where an image of Greta Garbo and Conrad Nagel embracing in “The Mysterious Lady” abuts René Magritte’s sensual and bewitching “The Lovers.” Lautenberg titled the series “Artistica!,” and a selection of a couple dozen of her thoughtful combinations is enjoying its museum debut at the Boca Raton Museum of Art through Aug. 21.

Like a DJ mashing up different pieces of audio, Lautenberg’s skill is divining intuitive—sometimes subliminal—connections between the two mediums. Sometimes the results are literal, other times abstract. A Jackson Pollock painting, in all its controlled frenzy, makes for a deft correlative to the exuberant dancing of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in “An American in Paris.” To pair with Lauren Bacall in “Dark Passage,” Lautenberg discovered an eerily mirrored vision by Diego Rivera (“Portrait of Linda Christian.”) “I’m still wowed by this Lauren Bacall,” she says. “They look so similar. [In the Rivera], she’s wearing a nude bra, but I feel [Bacall is] nude too—you can almost see the nudity behind that blouse.”

“Singin’ in the Rain” / Yayoi Kusama, “The Sea”

“Singin’ in the Rain,” featuring Kelly’s iconic, rain-swept “pole” dance, beautifully borders the bold blue ribbons of Yayoi Kusama’s stirring “The Sea.” An image of a prostrate Garbo from “Grand Hotel,” her tutu billowing around her, complements the blooming object of Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1.” The title character in “E.T.” is cleverly matched with one of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s primitive street portraits, and for “Jaws,” an untitled abstraction by Willem de Kooning seems to capture the underwater chaos Spielberg never showed us.

By limiting the pairings only to works completed within the same year, “Artistica!” captures a synergistic zeitgeist—conscious or unconscious—between artists and filmmakers. As for which comes first, the film or the artwork, “there’s no rhyme or reason,” she says. “Sometimes I want to use a certain movie. Sometimes I want to use a certain artist. … But it’s not just finding the film; then it’s doing your research, and finding the right connection.”

“Artistica!” is a change of pace for Lautenberg, who is known primarily as a photographer. The widow of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, Bonnie became “hooked” on the medium after she had the opportunity to photograph the Oslo Accords at the White House in 1993. “I had history in my lens, and that was so powerful,” she says.

“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” / Keith Haring, Untitled

Her series “How They Changed Our Lives: Senators as Working People” included portraits of all 100 senators in the 109th Congress, along with information on the bills they wrote and passed; the series opened in New Jersey and can be viewed in perpetuity on the Library of Congress’ website.

Lautenberg continues to have multiple irons in the fire. Following her husband’s lead, she is involved behind the scenes in Democratic politics. She’s co-developing a Broadway musical based on the life of Andy Warhol. She’s completing a book about her husband and his legacy, which will include many of her photographs. And she’s continuing to make new cinematic and visual-art connections in “Artistica!,” a series that may well be endless.

“There are many more movies I want to use, and many more artists I’d like to use. I feel passionate about every piece, because I put in time and effort, and I feel so excited when I find a good pairing.”


WHAT: “Bonnie Lautenberg: Art Meets Hollywood”
WHERE: Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton
WHEN: Through Aug. 21
COST: $10 for seniors, $12 for adults
CONTACT: 561/392-2500; bocamuseum.org

This story is from the July/August 2022 issue of Boca magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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