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The Dark Light in Joe Boruchow’s ‘Monster Storm’ at Space 1026

Pete Sparber sees Joe Boruchow's solo exhibit at Space 1026 and comments that there is "something beautiful and sublime in Joe’s very particular black and white graphic signature." The show is up through Jan. 26, so make your way up North Broad St. to see it before it closes. To make an appointment, email the artist at boruchow@yahoo.com.

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A square black and white paper cut-out image divided roughly in half, with a sun and stormy clouds above, and a cityscape with streaks of rain below.  
Joe Boruchow, “Storm Over Philadelphia,” 2023, 10 1/2 x 10 1/2″ paper cutout. Photo courtesy of the author

 

 

Every artist has a graphic signature. It’s a quality that’s elusive, but pervasive across the artist’s body of work. Beyond subject matter it transmits something of the artist’s psyche…how their particular quality of being shows up in their mark, their use of form, space, rhythm, contrast, texture or color. Joe Boruchow sets up his signature by narrowing his aperture to black and white. In his cut-paper oeuvre the forces of dark and light interpenetrate, working together and against one another to tell stories that are both fundamental and stylized.

Joe has been with us in Philadelphia for about 25 years and is leaving his mark on the city’s art scene, in its galleries and across its outdoor spaces through his work, previously self-installed on city walls, mailboxes, etc. and now, with Mural Arts. His current show, Monster Storm, is staged in conjunction with Space 1026, at the collective’s new home, 844 North Broad. The show was curated by Joe’s friend and associate, Jessica Kourkounis, a Philadelphia-based photojournalist and multimedia producer. The exhibition gives us a sampling of both his ongoing themes and recent concerns.

In this small, square black and white paper cut out, a father kneels over a small child at the bottom center of the picture. The father’s hands are outstretched, and behind him, filling the upper two thirds of the picture, are many demon masks.
Joe Boruchow, “Playing Monster at Bedtime,” 2023, 8 1/2 x 8 1/2″ paper cutout. Photo courtesy of the author

The two anchor pieces for the show, “Storm Over Philadelphia” and “Playing Monster at Bedtime,” are exhibited both in their small, original paper-cut out form (shown here) and at wall-sized scale, with two wheat-paste prints dominating one side of the gallery, The medium of paper cut-out, with its labor, time and focus-intense process, forces a discipline of purification and ‘essence’ finding. Joe perfects an image, which he then deploys through various methods of reproduction and at different scales.

“Storm” gives us the rain, sun and clouds in the sky as they play out across the cityscape. It’s nature bathing and illuminating the city. Storms, of perhaps even greater force, are seen in its companion, “Playing Monster,” the centerpiece of the show. The medium and the technique may be controlled and precise, but the emotion pours forth with all the demons erupting simultaneously. The father is either eliciting the maelstrom or protecting the child, or perhaps both. Joe tells me the ‘demons’ are inspired by the paintings of James Ensor and Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s wood-block prints.

Rendered in black and white, we see a man standing, with his back to us, in front of a modernist painting. 
Joe Boruchow, “Museum of Art,” 2012, 24 x 36″, digital print of original cutout. Photo courtesy of the author

Stepping back, “Museum of Art” shows us a man (I suspect the artist) looking at a piece on the museum wall, head-center in the midst of a modernist painting. The viewer, the artist, is immersed. Normally, we don’t so much look at a painting, as enter it. Here, for a moment, we contemplate the contemplator as he enters something that’s captured his attention.

Rendered in black and white, a river starts at the bottom left, rising to the upper middle of the picture.  A highway hugs the right bank. A stone bridge arches across the top of the picture. 
Joe Boruchow, “Lincoln Drive,” 2021, 24 x 36″, digital print of original cutout. Photo courtesy of the author

While Monster Storm only occupies one large space, there’s a lot to look at in the 1026 gallery. In our selective tour, I also wanted to spend a moment with “Lincoln Drive.” The elements of this graceful part of Philadelphia are all there carefully arrayed in a dance of black and white … the Schuylkill River, its winding banks and drive; the Fairmont forest; the stonework bridges, ducks and waterfall. Joe says he always strives for ‘beauty’ in his work. Beauty comes in a thousand forms, and there is definitely something beautiful and sublime in Joe’s very particular black and white graphic signature.

This sampling, along with other work are on view at Space 1026 through January 26th. For best access you can email Joe directly at boruchow@yahoo.com or DM his instagram account www.instagram.com/joeboruchow.

Joe Boruchow: Monster Storm, Space 1026, 844 North Broad, through Jan. 26, 2024.

[For further coverage of Joe  Boruchow’s art through the years, check out this page on Artblog.]

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