Photo Credit: Judy Cooper

Photo Credit: Judy Cooper

Blythe Bhonen

1940-

Artist Statement:

“I am interested in the forms that result from the kinesthetic reaction to a given situation. Similar motions in different media are translated into a variety of forms. A single line, a system of points, or a grid define a repeated set of limits that narrows the possibilities for motion so it can be studied. The structure of the form reflects the motions possible for humans: the straight push-pull of the hinge joint and the curves from pivots around a fixed point, or in motion...I am interested in being deliberate about this last outpost of human sensibility.”

Blythe Bohnen’s body of work is a notable example of the analytical, introspective experiments happening within conceptualism in its early years. For each project, Bohnen established a series of rules for herself regarding the subject matter, medium and execution of her work. In her Matrix series, Bohnen makes a sequence of graphite drawings in which guidelines are imposed on each gesture in order to pursue a visual and highly analytical study of motion. Like her minimalist contemporaries, the artist uses a grid to organize form here, and insists on a reading of the work that frames each drawing as simply marks on a surface with no underlying illusion or narrative. In contrast to her peers at A.I.R., Bohnen did not produce work that clashed stylistically or philosophically with the minimalist and conceptualist movements, yet neither did she find herself at odds with the mission of the gallery, nor the women that took a firmly anti minimalist stance. Bohnen lived in two worlds, and whether internal conflicts arose or not, she never compromised her politics, nor her art. Ultimately, Bohnen fulfilled A.I.R.’s core promise by establishing agency over her career and creative vision in a complex political environment.

Blythe Bhonen was born in Evanston, Illinois and attended Boston University of Fine Arts and Hunter College, where she attained her Bachelors Degree and Masters in Fine Arts respectively. Bohnen worked at both the Metropolitan Museum and Parson School of Design as a lecturer on mathematics and modern art from 1967 to 1972, during which time her fascination with the science of movement deepened. She was the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1978 and has received multiple Artist in Residency Grants. In her later career, Bohnen expanded her practice to include photography. Her more recent work includes a series of self portraits that explore motion of the body through manipulations of camera speed.


Where to Find Her Work:

Museum of Fine Arts in Dallas

The Whitney Museum, Museum of Modern Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art  

Art Institute of Chicago