Robert Bordo: ALEXANDER AND BONIN

By Schwabsky, Barry | Artforum International, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Robert Bordo: ALEXANDER AND BONIN


Schwabsky, Barry, Artforum International


Born in Montreal, Robert Bordo has been a New Yorker for forty years, and his work a point of reference for painters here since his first exhibition at the Brooke Alexander Gallery in 1987. Does the title of his most recent show, "Three Point Turn," signal a volte-face, a recantation? Thankfully not. But while Bordo hasn't shifted into reverse, he has changed gears, as could be seen by comparing the eleven new paintings (from 2012 and 2013) exhibited on the ground floor at Alexander and Bonin with the eleven older ones upstairs (two from 1996, the rest from between 2007 and 2011). A telegraphic way of describing the change might be to say that Bordo's earlier paintings, which verge on both abstraction and landscape, have affinities with works by artists of a tender and sometimes tentative touch such as Raoul De Keyser and Sylvia Plimack Mangold, whereas his more recent pieces evince a Gustonesque brusqueness and spleen. Bordo's new paintings are somewhat larger in size than they used to be, but they feel much bigger, with a blunter, more robust facture and a more implacable presence.

However, the title's invocation of driving was entirely to the point. A few of the individual painting titles sustained the metaphor, but more importantly, so did the imagery of rearview mirrors (as in DWI and [wacko], both 2012) and windshield wipers (Dial and The Future, both 2012). The corners of Joy Ride and The Black Dog, both 2012, are nailed down, so to speak, by hexagonal red doohickeys resembling stop signs. Despite Tony Smith's notorious reflection that the New Jersey Turnpike was "the end of art" because "most painting looks pretty pictorial after that"--"pictorial," in Smith's statement, functioning mainly as a synonym for "puny"--the experience of the road has fed the imagery of painting at least since Allan D'Arcangelo's sweepingly perspectival Pop highways and Vija Celmins's photorealist views through the windshield. …

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