Weekly Update – Cut paper social commentary of Joe Boruchow

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This week’s Weekly has my review of Joe Boruchow’s Public Service at Bean Cafe.  Below is the copy with pictures.

Many artists now work in the once-scorned craft media of cut paper, but nobody does it quite like local artist Joe Boruchow who embeds fierce political and social commentary in works of great delicacy.

Joe Boruchow, political poster in cut paper at Bean Cafe
Joe Boruchow, political poster in cut paper at Bean Cafe

Sixteen of the artist’s original cut paper pieces are now at Bean Café in the show “Public Service.” From portraits of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginzberg and Mayor Nutter to trippy, complicated works on swine flu and Michael Vick, Boruchow’s surprisingly small pieces—black cut paper set off by white satin backgrounds and black frames—are seductive and intimate.

Installation at Bean Cafe
Installation at Bean Cafe

Boruchow, a self-taught artist and musician, photocopies his satirical posters and staples them around his South Philadelphia neighborhood, often to the consternation of his neighbors who rip them down. Boruchow’s posters are purposely inflammatory with rhetoric to ignite debate. A recent poster, included in this show, imagines a Philadelphia ordinance, the Canine Fecal Death Act, which would execute dogs whose owners did not pick up after them.

Joe Boruchow, swine flu fountain piece
Joe Boruchow, swine flu fountain piece

The title piece for the show, Public Service, creates a mythic story of his long-term public-spiritedness. A mirror-
like image shows the artist in profile stapling his posters around town in 2009 with each preceding year depicting the same image only smaller until you get the idea that Boruchow has been postering the town since the dawn of man. It’s funny, but the piece speaks to his understanding of his role as a public artist.

Joe Boruchow, before the opening, laying out free copies of his posters
Joe Boruchow, before the opening, laying out free copies of his posters

The definition of a public artist is one who gives his work away, and at the opening, Boruchow was passing out free posters, hot off the copy machine at Staples on Delaware Avenue, his favorite copy shop.

Last year was not a great year for art sales and Boruchow felt the economic strain like most other artists. He was, however, a finalist for the coveted Pew Fellowhip award. He also received a portrait commission from Isaiah Zagar, father of the mirror-and-ceramic Magic Gardens on South Street. And with a grant from the Xeric Foundation, he’s producing an edition of his cut paper graphic novel Stuffed Animals , due out in February.

Prototype of Stuffed Animals, a paper cutout book that will be produced with Xeric foundation
Prototype of Stuffed Animals, a paper cutout book that will be produced with Xeric foundation

Boruchow, a singer/songwriter and founder of the band Nite Lights, weaves his art and music together. His studio is the site of both art-making and songwriting. And right now, he and band mate Stevie Burkitt are working on new songs that, Boruchow says, will be the soundtrack for his art in a Nite Lights concert and slide show at Johnny Brenda’s in March.

Joe Boruchow, Public Service
Joe Boruchow, Public Service

Like many artists, Boruchow works a day job; he’s a bartender at Tattooed Mom’s. But the prolific public artist and musician just can’t put down the knife. There are 16 small works in the show—all but one of them made since August. And in an era that’s been dubbed “the age of less,” where ostentatious bigness is out of fashion, these small works feel just right.

Joe Boruchow: “ Public Service: Paper Cutouts .” Through Dec. 8. Bean Café, 615 South St.

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