Jonathan Borofsky

Untitled at 2,545,878


Not on display

Jonathan Borofsky born 1942
Graphite on paper
Support: 216 × 140 mm
Purchased 1984

Catalogue entry

Jonathan Borofsky born 1942

T03911 Untitled at 2,545,878 1978

Crayon on paper 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 (216 x 140)
Inscribed ‘2545878' b.r., ‘Borofsky' on back b.r. and ‘78 JB 268 Duf ['g' deleted]' on back b.r. in another hand
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,, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984, pp.14-16

In 1984, Borofsky made the following observations about this work to Sandy Nairne (see entry for T03908):

This appears to be one of the series that I would call self-portraits, although it doesn't necessarily look like me. The head is elongated and it implies a sort of brainy thinker by that elongated forehead. It just looks like one of those many quick sketch heads that I would do at different times over many years. In fact, it looks like a head I once carved in wood, when I was very young, and my mother still has, and I used to like Modigliani ... [A reference by Borofsky to the elongated Modigliani- like heads he draws].

Asked whether T03911 is related to his familiar symbol of an energy source, the head with a light source radiating from the forehead (see T03909), Borofsky replied, ‘yes, [an] energy source; where the third eye is, where also you quite often sense your thinking brain is pushing out energy or whatever.' However he pointed out that it differed from the sculpture incorporating a head with a book that he exhibited in the Venice Biennale in 1980 (repr. Philadelphia exh. cat. 1984, fig.147): ‘this has been both painting and sculpture; but that [the Venice work] is more literal, that puts the book on the head; that's really a different [idea] completely'.

Borofsky agreed that T03911 could be understood both as a symbol for a man and also for the artist: ‘I would like to think they are humans, but it does turn out to look a little like me, but not enough like me to really think, it's me. People who looked at it wouldn't recognise it as me'. He went on to suggest that the bald head looked ‘penis-like sometimes... the idea of this being a source of energy, and a penis being a source of ... energy. There's something to be said for that'. Asked whether the date could be worked out from the numbers on the work he said, ‘presumably, but never necessarily; because every once in a while I find one drawing and I try to guess at when it was, and once in a while to fool myself and everybody else I have put the number on of the moment which might be three years later'.

As Mark Rosenthal points out, a major subject of Borofsky's work is the artist himself: ‘[he] acknowledges that virtually every one of his works is a self portrait. The head is a frequent form of expression in this regard; there are literally hundreds, which are frankly self portraits or at the very least, suggestive of such'. Rosenthal cites the following reproductions in the Philadelphia catalogue; no.33,’Untitled at 2,600,611 and 2,600,612' 1978, (acrylic on two stones 241 x 102 x 108, 9 1/2 x 4 x 4 1/4 and, 152 x 64 x 57, 6 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/4); no.35,’ Head with Shape on it at 2,535,405' 1978, (acrylic on paper 2000 x 1321, 78 3/4 x 52); no.36, see T03908; no.47 ‘Split Head 2,673,047' 1980 (acrylic on two shaped canvases 3378 x 1092, 133 x 43 and 3378 x 762, 133 x 30).

Similarly elongated bald heads appear in drawings reproduced in the Basel exhibition catalogue 1983 (see cover illustration c.1977, no.32 c.1977, no.72 1978 and no.96 1979).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.104-5

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