In the late 1980s, on the heels of his Whitney retrospective (1985), Jonathan Borofsky embarked on the project of painting flags of the world’s nations. 37 were exhibited in a Spring 1988 show at Paula Cooper Gallery on Wooster Street, representing countries from Barbados to Zaire. They surrounded a soaring blue fiberglass sculpture of a man with a visible flashing red light in his chest and the audible soundtrack of a heartbeat. Recognizable Borofskian themes were at play: the confrontation of abstract entities with an inalienable human experience, the search for a unifying principle that might transcend political and other divisions, and a sense of wonderment, and apprehension, at the world’s diversity thus flatly categorized. While John Russell called the flags “adventures for the eye,” (NYT, 4/29/1988), in Donald Kuspit’s view, they “helped induce a state of panic - an intense anxiety about both art and nationality, as equally insulting ideas” (Artforum, September 1988). On view here are three examples: Belgium, Greece and Lebanon.
Also on view is a 1994 piece made of hand-formed steel wire. Its 32 units are binary code spelling of the word BOOK.
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