Robert Bordo’s easel-sized paintings are prominently featured in “Greater New York,” the big quinquennial exhibition at MoMA PS1. Set aside in their own room, hung on white walls and carefully lit, the paintings walk the lines between painting and drawing, and representation and abstraction. Bardo paints with the improvisational, wet-on-wet brio of a lifelong painter, and indeed the paintings recall Guston’s late style.
[Image at top: Robert Bordo. the confession. 2015, oil on canvas on panel, 36 × 45 inches. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Pablo Enriquez.]
Born in Montreal in 1949, Bordo has taught painting at Cooper Union for many years. In 2013 his solo at Alexander and Bonin was well received, and in 2014 he won the $25,000 Robert De Niro, Sr., Prize. which recognizes career accomplishment in painting.
He has always been interested in the relationship between image and allegory, and between representation and flatness, and in the work selected for “Greater New York,” he presents a series of loosely painted heads, wearing heavy glasses and sometimes smoking cigars. The heads often include thought bubbles, and are cropped as if they are looking out from, or trapped inside, a computer screen.
Here is an excerpt from Robert Bordo’s “500 Words,” as told to Sherman Sam for ArtForum magazine in 2013:
Last winter, I had been essentially working in total isolation. I think I had cabin fever, because things became heightened and exaggerated, which is prime for making expressive paintings. I would watch the news on the television, read newspapers and online blogs, all seemingly talking about the same dramatic political polarization in the country. In the language of the conservative media, more specifically, I kept hearing an echo of the strident threats that were around in the 1950s, the conformity and the repression that eventually inspired the beginning of the New York School.
The material practice is the vehicle for this transference, one that must have physical evidence of the painting process (of painting, and repainting) to satisfy until image, content, and surface comply as a record of experience. I draw a lot before starting a painting, creating a whole ensemble of variations of compositions that begin to circle around a metaphor. I don’t have a specific image in mind, but I can have a specific idea. There’s a shift from the balance of abstraction and representation to a correlation between images and allegory.
Greater New York,” curated by Peter Eleey and Mia Locks of P.S. 1; Thomas J. Lax, associate curator of media and performance art at MoMA; and Douglas Crimp, a professor of art history at the University of Rochester. MoMA PS1, Long Island City, Queens, NY. Through March 7, 2015.