NEW YORK – Jonathan Borofsky, Mandy Harris Williams opened on February 13 at Paula Cooper Gallery. This is the third in a series of two-person presentations at Paula Cooper Gallery’s 529 West 21st Street space curated by Laura Hunt, the gallery’s archivist.
Jonathan Borofsky and Mandy Harris Williams are both artists whose practice involves an intentional cultivation of self-awareness. This exhibition examines self-awareness as it relates to the public good.
Of his work Running Man, an iconic figure the artist painted on the Berlin Wall in 1982, Borofsky has said, “It’s me, I guess, but it’s also humanity.” This flickering between the self and the universal applies to all of Borofsky’s artwork. He uses the labor of his particular mind and body to explore what it means to be a person.
On view by Borofsky is his 1995 sculpture Truth (binary computer code), 40 units of steel wire zeros and ones powder-coated with orange enamel. The sculpture physically translates the noun (and the greater concept of) “truth” into numerical form. Numbers have been a central theme in Borofsky’s work throughout his long career. The first work he showed at Paula Cooper Gallery was Counting (1969), 20 computer printouts of typed numbers laid on the floor. The artist has stated, “numbers are like god, they connect us all together.”
Mandy Harris Williams, an artist, writer, and educator, is exhibiting a large-scale vinyl wall text that takes the form of a prayer to “a concept people call God.” Her words urge viewers to be willing to expose their participation in the suffering perpetuated by our current society, and, significantly, clarifies that this exposure is not “sacrifice” but “primer and prelude.” Williams conveys to her generation the wisdom originally given at great risk by American thinkers such as Audre Lorde and James Baldwin: that willing self-reflection and by extension self-awareness is the first step towards social progress. In another artwork in the show, an audio piece projected outside the gallery into the street, Williams’ voice speaks about love, “not romantic love… the sort of love where you prefer me, think I’m human…”