Louise Aline Barnsdall’s Hollyhock House was intended to be a temple to artistic invention. But the oil heiress and arts patron, who commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design it, found the architect so exasperating she fired him, forcing the project manager, Rudolph M. Schindler, to finish the troubled job, Schindler brought along Richard Neutra to help design the garden terrace. Barnsdall never completed the full plan for the project. She lived in the home only for a handful of years—her dissatisfaction made it less a temple to art or architecture than to forces at odds.
“Entanglements: Louise Bonnet and Adam Silverman at Hollyhock House” responds to the site’s history of tensions and refusals. The first contemporary art intervention staged inside the Mayan Revival home, the show was proposed by the artist couple, who were inspired by the house’s history of great minds at cross purposes. Designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2019, the exhibition needed to be installed with a light touch, so that even the most monumental works could be swiftly removed without a trace. The sense is that Hollyhock remains a locus of counterforces: In hosting these works, the edifice reveals how unwelcoming to them it is.
Bonnet and Silverman respond to these monumentalized frictions differently. With pieces such as Entangled (Dining Table), 2023, Silverman presents ceramic vessels fused together through the firing process, suggesting individuals forever united by trying circumstance. His sculptures, which were fired with pieces of wood from the property’s olive trees, also feature glazes made by the artist with flotsam collected from the Pacific Ocean, which the house overlooks. The placement of the work is informed by historic photos featuring the original furnishings, art, and decorative objects—purchased at Wright’s instance—that have since gone missing. Bonnet’s jewel-tone paintings of demented hands, such as Hollyhock Gold, 2022, glow in the building’s contrivedly dark environs under low-slung ceilings. Her signature style, which alludes to Baroque painting technique without quite nailing it, is complimented by the grotesque flourishes of her forms. Like the love children of R. Crumb and Vermeer, her subjects are unconstrained by the logic of traditional human anatomy because she shapes her characters more through violent force than through technical precision—flesh is pressed, twisted, gripping. As in the construction of the house, Bonnet’s excessively aggressive hands shake with sharply contrasting agendas.