GALLERY WALK GUIDE, APRIL, 2005
Leisure, date, 1982
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The Brattleboro Museuim and Art Center will present an exhibition of recent constructions by area artist Scot Borofsky through August 29.
Borofsky's exhibition is the first in a series of five one person exhobitions by Windham County artists who recently won National Endowment for the Arts Mini-Grants. The NEA Mini-Grant program is administered by the Arts Council of Windham County, who collaborated with the BMAC to produce the series of exhibitions which will be presented in the Museum's Mary Sumner's Room
by William Hays
The first handmade marks of recorded human activity are visual symbols and pictographs. In most ways, art and cultural history can be tracked by the increasing complexity of our visual language. Brattleboro painter Scot Borofsky takes his place on this continuum by exploring a contemporary symbolic language while embracing the history and universality of pictographs and glyphs.
Borofsky was born and raised in Brattleboro. After high school he left rural Vermont to study briefly with Peter Grippe at Brandeis University, then on to RISD (where he received his BA in painting) and the Brooklyn Museum, where he received a Max Beckmann Memorial Painting Scholarship (and museum studio for one year). Adopting New York City as his home base, he continued to travel and work at his art for nine years. These travels took him to Mexico, where his work was deeply influenced by the passionate and proud indigenous culture.
The pre-Columbians affected Borofsky's drawing through the complex sets of symbols and glyphs he saw on objects and in ruins. He began using a geometric structure in combination with biomorphic lines to create a new set of personal symbols, an alphabet for his personal (visual) vocabulary. Borofsky started finding strategic locations in New York and creating large scale, spray-painted wall murals featuring his multicultural pictographs, in carefully positioned relationships, they could be seen as a larger part of the setting or viewed for their own sake. After a few exciting years in the East Village, with strong gallery representation, Borofsky was having his work positively reviewed in Art Forum, The New York Times, Art News and Art in America. In the early 1990s, Borofsky returned to Vermont with his new wife and awaited arrival of their first child in his hometown.
Borofsky worked toward a stylistic synthesis of the symbols and stylized landscape environments in oils and in works on paper. He spent years exploring the use of his graphics in combination with increasingly deliberate and active application of paint. He wove the graphics into a variety of settings and used them as narrative elements of the paintings.
During a bold series of paintings based on the events of September 11, 2001, the language he had developed for decades flowed in a different way than before. It transformed from individual symbols to a calligraphic mass, a web of forms. His new use of calligraphy shouted in a plethora of voices echoing the collective horror of the attacks. His application of paint grew increasingly confident and direct. His writing became and extension of the subconscious. Years of practice and repetition metamorphosed into a new dynamic expression.
Within a series of more than 20 small works, each of the 9/11 paintings shifted slightly to present a particular point of view in response to the profound scale of destruction and lives lost. The compositions pierced the prevailing media imagery of the disaster with a deep, personal resonance. Eventually Borofsky built on these focused points of view to formulate a large-scale response. The resulting “Cataclysm” imposed a telescopic lens on the space between the heart of the explosions and chaos. He drove even close to the center of the event in the next large painting, “Conflagration.” More than a year after 9/11, Borofsky distanced himself, becoming more of a spectator. The climax in his series (still untitled) changed point of view and enlarged the scale (8x 12 feet) to create a field of vision encompassing a crystalline skyline of ghostly buildings against the flaming twin towers.
Passing time has now allowed Borofsky to segue into a different approach. He has simplified his process to focus on fundamental elements of composition, color, the figure-ground relationship, calligraphy and mass. Some of the recent paintings still hold onto a created spatial environment, a suggested landscape, But the calligraphic elements dominate in masses that serve to direct composition.
At their best, the new works begin to leave behind atmosphere and light. They flatten into a more subtle figure-ground relationship that allows the calligraphy to speak clearly while the ground holds our interest with well-chosen combinations of color applied in a minimum of painted and over painted layers along with wiping of the surface in turn.
The real magic in the latest paintings is the calligraphy. The symbols are woven together of a gridded structure that is never too heavily relied upon while providing order. They are painted/drawn with an assured hand that, at times, darkens to East Asian calligraphy. The curves, spirals, circles and lines interweave to form large shapes within the whole, giving the compositions motion, Individual symbols come out of the weave differently for each viewer. The meaning and content of each painting becomes something of a psychological game since every viewer sees different symbols and derives different meanings, Individually each symbol is a word or an idea. Together they are a multitude of voices speaking in full sentences.
In a 1985 review of Borofsky's exhibition in New York City, Suzaan Boettger in Art Forum observed, “Pervasively discernible in Scot Borofsky's painting and sculpture is a mystical impulse striving to find a contemporary voice.” Borofsky has found that voice-not a capricious rant of youth; rather, a voice that transcends time and culture to reach the viewer through a visual cacophony of fully developed, pancultural marks carrying a message-a message that has far reaching implications for the return of a visual, spiritual and psychological language containing the reach to speak to a wide spectrum of the audience with a very personal touch.
SCOT BOROFSKY: A SINGULAR VOICE