Photographs by clarissa bonet
Clarissa Bonet is an artist based in Chicago whose work explores issues of the urban space in both a physical and psychological context. She holds an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, a BS in Photography from the University of Central Florida, and an AS in Photography from Daytona State College.
Bonet’s work has been exhibited at the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Aperture Foundation, Magenta Foundation, and Catherine Edelman Gallery.
Her work has been published in The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, CNN Photo, Chicago Magazine, Harpers Bizarre, Juxtapoz, Aint-Bad, The Eye of Photography, Photo District News, and many other publications both nationally and internationally.
Bonet’s photographs are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Southeast Museum of Photography, Haggerty Museum of Art, University Club Chicago, and the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection.
In the portfolio City Space, Clarissa Bonet recreates pedestrian scenes of urban life. Set among towering columns, concrete facades, stairwells, and street corners, in the shadows cast by skyscrapers and expansive plains of asphalt, Bonet’s characters move and sit, and wait. These images illustrate a broader interaction between people and their environment undisguised by the seemingly mundane scenarios depicted. These are the moments of intersection between subject and setting that define urban living.
City Space expands on the genre and practice of street photography by capturing the psychological impact of her experience of the street not live, but via the thoughtfully and deliberately reconstructed image. These are fragments of memory, envisioned and then formalized into visual statements. This is an authentic vocabulary for the urban space, an environment where private lives take place in public spaces and where a defining moment for one life is just a beat in the city’s rhythm for another.
Bonet has the advantage of composing each scene to emphasize the formal elements of light and shadow, and the successes of her images rest in the visual timbre created to match both the sense of place and the character of the inhabitants.
Bonet accomplishes this through a predominantly muted color palette and a carefully considered vantage point—and by preserving the anonymity of the characters.
In Stray Light, Bonet continues this investigation of the nature of a constructed reality and how one approaches the disparity of organic life in artificial environments. Unlike City Space, where the pedestrian establishes the figure/ground relationship to provide perspective and context for the viewer, the Stray Light series allows an almost omniscient vantage point.
In these nocturnal compositions, the surfaces of high-rises recede into the backdrop of the black night sky leaving only the illuminated windows at the forefront. These windows reinforce the shape of the now-concealed facades of the buildings, and through subtle variations in shape and broad variations in illuminated color, these portals of light reference the individual lives within the spaces.
Each, like the life it represents, is a unique and particular existence; however, the individuality is lost in the expansive cluster. This creates an effective visual metaphor between the constellations of the rural night sky and these seemingly endless clusters of light in the city.
All images courtesy of the Catherine Edelman Gallery.
This project is partially supported by an Individual Artist Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, as well as a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.