Gus Bofa’s Low-Life Art

Gus Bofa’s 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.

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