Molly Bounds’ Panes: A Study in Motion

October 8th, 2016  |  Published in Early Fall 2016

Molly Bounds’ Panes: A Study in Motion opened on July 1st at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, CO. I landed in Denver at nine o’clock on the morning of Tuesday the sixteenth of August, having flown overnight from Portland. It was my second visit to Denver and the latter of two visits with Bounds who I’ve known tangentially through various conferences, projects, and print-centric social media outlets over the past half decade. She met me at Union Station and treated me graciously to a visit, which left me deeply impressed and also very thankful. I’ve long admired her work, however mostly from afar, and inasmuch as I’ve known her, there is certainly a difference of degrees in appreciation and knowledge when both become rooted in the immediate and tangible experience of artwork. Tangibility and ownership are important for Bounds’ work, and these aspects for me came as a welcomed subtlety. I’ll explain why further along.

Bounds’ is well known, and respected in the Denver art scene. As she lead me around the city during my layover between Portland and San Antonio I was introduced to a cavalcade of artists, business owners and other creatively involved individuals all of whom greeted Bounds’ with some sort of congratulatory effect as it would appear her star is rising, having recently been accepted into the Redline Residency Program.  Recently she has painted several murals in Denver, and as I left Portland she was going there to paint another mural at Disjecta, while the most recent Denver mural had yet to receive her signature. She insists however, that she is not a “mural artist.” I would agree, hers is a purport multifarious in distinctions of media, subject, and style. Her creative brand, if I dare employ a word so constricting, is hungry, eager, well read, and patiently evolving. It would be easy to call Bounds’ an emerging artist, however I do not think it would do her credit. Instead I think I will say that Bounds’ is on the run, traveling circles around herself excitedly, chasing after her influences, hearing and understanding their rhythms; she is chopping and screwing their mana into fleet footed visual frenzy that is remarkably poised and succinct given the stuffed well from which she draws the waters of creative shimmer.

She is resourceful and very much leads the life of a dedicated artist. For instance when she picked me up Bounds’ car was full of paint cans and mural materials. She was also toting around a small collection of funny hats, which had been given to her while she’d been painting. There weren’t enough hats for vending but certainly to furnish a small outfit of friends with similar goals. She thought maybe they could shield her from the sun; apparently they weren’t good at that. We got to the museum before it opened and ended up having to wait. After weaseling some free water from a taco joint, thirst quenched, I was lead into the basement of the MCA to find one of the most enjoyable exhibitions I’ve seen in quite a long time. As someone who has been in close proximity to the art market my entire life, and then professionally involved for the past eight years, I have developed a taste for almost everything. I can generally find for myself a point of entry and some means of exploring and enjoying another person’s headspace even if the inside is gross.

Perhaps it is because Bounds is similarly invested in DIY dogma (or lack thereof), or because we read some of the same comics, or because we are both into printmaking, and have an appreciation for lo-fi culture, it’s definitely a little bit of all of those things; yet the moment I walked into the space I felt the presence of annunciation, concision and fresh air. It wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting. Having seen the show, I don’t think I could’ve anticipated what I had before me, despite my dedicated reading of Bounds’ work up and to this point.

The first time I met Molly she gave me her self published comic First Timer, and since then, nearly six years ago, I’ve watched her lyrical style traverse so many different media with poised voicing, graphic strength, and a formidable perspective that is absolutely feminine but not necessarily Feminist. This tone of speaking from and not for is the vocal quality for which I will always remember the experience of seeing this exhibition. From this posturing Bounds’ achieves something importantly resonant in this day and age of trolling and blame shaming.

The exhibit is composed of three large wall drawings depicting female bodies in sequenced motion, sort of frame by frame. Both whole bodies and more detailed limb specific movements are attentively explained with quiet momentum. Their titling is indicative of great intention and thoughtfulness as it should be. These larger drawings in red and blue, which stand about fifteen feet high or more, are conservatively curtailed with sections of shadow painted on in large swathes of pale blue and gold. In these sections areas are left white to suggest light shining through a windowpane.  The swathes of color, which traverse areas of wall meeting floor or ceiling, are hung with two paintings. One painting depicts a seated female figure in profile, cropped about the waist, she is backed by the profile of a male figure, his hand on her shoulder, we can only see the portion of his body descending from mid bicep to just above the knee. The painting features an array of shadows and the figures are painted in flat values of blue and grey that are placid and simultaneously punchy. The other painting features a female figure straight on from shoulders up, her hand raised to shield her eyes from light, which again is casting shadows. This painting is interestingly hung below the museum’s staircase, which ascends to the rooftop and is framed with a skylight. At around 1pm the sun’s light enters the space providing the painting with a reaction that is alive for a small time. I gathered that Bounds’ was especially pleased by this, and rightfully so. The paintings are formally derived of Bounds’ approach to screen-printing, which relies on colors printed in flat layers. This intersection of media reflects Bounds’ current studio situation, which is limited by an inability to easily support a printing operation. The third swath of color is without a painting, which makes poignant allusion to the message.

I’ve Always Wanted To (Shaded Figure 6)
9:00 AM
( Wall Mural)

The passage of light is inextricably linked to the passage of time and both are perpetually umbilical to spatiality with regard to our modes of perception. With any life a body is expectant and expected. We expect to achieve our goals, and this is a response to expectations conditioned us by society. It is therefore that Bounds’ is narrating the personality of otherness; the experience of which she feels is a product of situational expectations imposed by judgments rooted in difference taken of face value. In our interview she suggested that in her upbringing that she had maybe never been expected to be good at any sort of muscle struggle, contact sports, activities of or relating to construction, or playing instruments. This is an experience I have heard shared by many of my closest female friends. It is also an experience that I identify with myself being a sensitive male who doesn’t happen to enjoy sport. I feel like it’s important to stress that what Bounds’ is talking about is her personal experience, and in doing so she does not seek to speak for degrees to which any other person does or does not experience otherness. Instead Bounds’ is vocalizing her occupation of space and the degrees to which this has at times caused her reflection and discomfort due to the will and judgments of others. I think the manner in which she does this is utterly positive and soul stirring.

Inhabitance (Release)
Wall Mural
4:15 PM
Wall Mural


Immersion (Thrust)
Wall mural

I asked Bounds’ about her influences and the sparse tone of the show and she pointed to greats of the tradition of commix such as R. Crumb, Aida Koch, Adrian Pomine, Chris Ware, and Oliviere Schrauwen. When prodded further, she responded by saying that she derives inspiration from anything that exceeds what is expected of it. She said that this body of work was executed with Aidan Koch in mind. That she admires Koch’s work in particular because of the way she confidently leaves narratives open ended and minimally detailed. Instead of overdoing it, which is what most emerging artists might do given such ample space at such a prestigious institutional venue, Bounds’ opted for the clarity of concision. I think it worked.


Closing on the tenth of September the MCA offered Bounds’ an event based closing reception. When I visited she was talking about having a zine fest. This initial idea has evolved into an Art Mart wherein Bounds’ has essentially invited many of her favorite DIY creative to gather to table and sell their wares. The curation of invitation has been designed to introduce artists and audience members who might not otherwise meet. Bounds’ love for lo-fi comics, self-publishing, and Xerox punk zines has always been coupled with her fine arts education, a combination bound to breed frustration. She has always felt nurtured in her creative pursuits by the Denver DIY scene, which is now disappearing, most of the DIY spaces having been bought out, their expiration is imminent with the coming of the new-year. This event for Bounds’ is combative and friendly. Art Mart is an earnest attempt to nurture the hand that has lovingly fed her practice for so long, and a wonderful way to conclude her first solo exhibition at a major museum.

In this body of work I feel a question is posed as to what we might be like if our self-consciousness did not limit our space of being, we were not put upon by others to fulfill roles, willed to bow to the insecurities of ourselves and others,  I feel a notion towards compassionate support and cooperative growth. I find the ideals in Bounds’ work to be wholesome and kind, I find this expression to be incredibly necessary right now.

I would encourage readers to watch Bounds as her’s is a resonant honesty that seems increasingly hard to come by. Follow her @Moldybongs on Instagram.

7:30 PM
(Wall Mural)
What Did You Do Today (Guided Figure 3)
Dispersion (Thrust)

–Jack Wood

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