Jonathan Borofsky

Head with Light Bulb at 2,607,008


Not on display

Jonathan Borofsky born 1942
Ink on paper
Support: 242 × 153 mm
Purchased 1984

Catalogue entry

Jonathan Borofsky born 1942

T03909 Head with Light Bulb at 2,607,008 c.1979-80

Black ink on paper 242 x 153 (9 1/2 x 6)
Inscribed ‘2607008' b.r., ‘B' on back t.l. and ‘JB469/D' on back b.l.
Purchased from Paula Cooper Inc., New York (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Exh: Jonathan Borofsky Zeichnungen 1960-1983, Kunstmuseum, Basel, June-July 1983, Städtisches Kunstmuseum, Bonn, Sept.-Oct. 1983, Kunstverein, Hamburg, Jan.-Feb. 1984, Kunsthalle, Bielefeld, April-May 1984, Kunstverein, Mannheim, May-July 1984, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sept.-Oct. 1984 (not in cat.)
Lit: Mark Rosenthal, ‘Jonathan Borofsky's Modes of Working' in Jonathan Borofsky, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984, p.14; Richard Marshall, ‘Jonathan Borofsky's Installations: All is One', in ibid., p.89

In 1984, Borofsky said of this work:

I've made lamps all my life. When I was in High School I made my first lamp. I made a lamp at age 24, in the Age Piece, and I've made several lamps since with bulbs coming out of heads, three dimensional fibre-glass pieces. So, it could be considered a ... trite image or ‘idea', .... But in this case [there is] this line from above implying energy, coming from above spiritually, down into the brain .... Coming from above is important, down into the head. I like the way the lines seem to flip off the head into the space ... the mouth actually goes outside the line of the head ... so you can't really place the head; the head is partly in space ... or dissolving ... it's diffused and partly flipping out into space, and partly dissolving away. And that also relates to paintings like the one that was made at ICA, which has other things too, the structure of the body breaking up, but also has the head with the light bulbs in it.

The work to which Borofsky refers was exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1981 (Jonathan Borofsky Dreams 1973-81, ICA and Kunsthalle Basel). He told Sandy Nairne that T03909 was the only drawing he could remember that showed the bulb attached to a line (or cord) coming from outside the head. Asked to date the work he said he believed ‘that it's after 1977 ... it could be later'.

The ‘Age 24' work to which Borofsky refers is part of a retrospective work he began in 1972, consisting of twelve objects representing key phases in his development between the ages of eight and thirty (repr. Philadelphia exh. cat. 1980, pl.3); ‘The whole point of that piece was to show that in each of those periods a whole revolution took place where I broke with the old and made a step into something new.' A major part of the work was ‘Age 24', consisting of what the artist has described as ‘a Cubist Puerto Rican Lamp' (ibid., p.89) which, Richard Marshall suggests, anticipated Borofsky's subsequent use of lamps, lights and electricity in his imagery.

Other works where heads with light souces have appeared are: ‘Continuous Painting' 1972-73, a thirteen panel oil on canvas work (repr. ibid., fig.4). It was in this work that Borofsky first linked his counting to iconography (see T03908) and the sixth small panel from the left, numbered ‘1,779,593', shows a bald head from whose forehead a light appears to shine. Another variation is ‘the individual with a book or light atop its skull. The book or light may also suggest consciously acquired human enlightenment in contrast to animal instincts' (Rosenthal 1980, p.14; see pls 48,147,148). Also apparently related is the head with rays emanating from a light source resembling a Star of David crossed with a heart (repr. Jonathan Borofsky, Zeichnungen 1960-83, exh. cat. Kunstmuseum, Basel 1983, fig.11 as ‘Tonight Dada and I Have Possibly Ended our Relationship, What Will Happen Will Happen, drawing No.2,270,209' c.1974-5).

The number on T03909 (2,607,008) suggests that it was made c.1979-80, (see Jonathan Borofsky, Zeichnungen for reproductions of drawings of around the same date).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.101-2

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