Gus Bofa’s Low-Life Art

Bofa5Aaron Peck at the NYRB:

When the French artist Gus Bofa died in 1968, his obituary in Le nouveau planetedescribed him as “a profound thinker… a bilingual philosopher who knew how to tell us about fear in words and images.” As an editor, writer, and illustrator, Bofa stands at a crossroads between numerous art forms: book illustration, comics, poster-art, aphorisms, and visual biography. Bofa’s drawings evoke the anxious spirit of the early twentieth century, images of urban alienation and war but also of fantasy, a mixture he shared with his friend the novelist Pierre Mac Orlan. Words, either Bofa’s or others’, are central to his oeuvre. His drawings suggest the existential darkness that overtook a Europe defaced by war and modernization. The illustrations he made for Mac Orlan’s moody novel of espionage Mademoiselle Bambù—of spies, prostitutes, sailors, and drifters—compliment the tale of a web of interconnected characters as they circulated around Europe’s port cities, a depiction of the dark unease of the early twentieth century. Bofa’s contributions appear in rough black and white, sketch-like, as if somehow disappearing into themselves. In these drawings, his style is dark, almost resembling the aesthetics of film noir, though at times it is also goofy or playful.

more here.