In the early sixties, inspired by a trip to Florence, Dusti Bongé started to ponder the idea of allowing paintings to be hung differently to avoid glare. This soon led her to making canvases that took on different dimensional qualities, rather than being the conventional two-dimensional flat objects hung on a wall.
Eventually, Dusti's experiment evolved into her series of Shape Paintings, 3-dimensional canvases that she constructed and painted on all sides. Although not easy to transport, they were so intriguing that Betty Parsons exhibited them in Dusti’s 1962 solo show at the gallery. In this show, the Shape Paintings were interspersed with another unique series Dusti had created, her Dream Series paintings (more on them at another time).
The above is an installation photo of said exhibit (in a previous E-news I shared a photo of them as displayed in Dusti’s garden). The various mostly geometric shapes Dusti created are either suspended or pegged on a rod with a base. Each side of each shape painting was uniquely painted with bold graphic abstract patterns. Some were brightly colored, others had muted tones. A review in the New York Times that fall offered an interesting observation:
“In her new three-dimensional painting-sculpture at Betty Parsons, 15 East 57th Street, Dusti Bongé has escaped from the tyranny of the flat surface."
This is indeed what Dusti set out to do, to create paintings one could approach/view obliquely rather than frontally, works one could appreciate spatially rather than from a fixed point. The Shape Paintings offer a unique visual experience, presenting the moving observer with a constantly changing overall composition. In addition, the large hanging spheres, which consist of two intersecting double-sided circular canvases, creating an eight-sided segmented shape, would move in response to the airflow in the room, thus taking on a gentle kinetic quality. And so an initial concern with glare gave rise to a whole new concept of paintings.