Matt Borruso, Full Spectrum Aura

Opening night – Thursday, February 7, 2008

The minute I walked into Matt Borruso’s show, Full Spectrum Aura, at the Steve Wolf Gallery, I became surprisingly nostalgic.  I was reminded of two former classmates who resembled the subjects of Magenta and Turtleneck.  At first glance, one may be struck by the vibrant and elaborate color palette as I was.  It certainly takes deftness and a breadth of experience to use shrill and arresting colors to capture flesh tones and highlights of the face (i.e., the glimmer captured in a pair of sad eyes) the way Borruso has done with his portraits.

As I studied the relationship between colors, I was impressed with Borruso’s desire to utilize and experiment with Josef Albers’s theory on color (as he mentioned in his artist statement).  The heavily bagged eyes, the overly pouty lips that look as though they’ve been licked to avoid dryness, and the shine of an oily bulbous nose are the details that make his paintings oddly captivating.  His interpretation of portraiture provokes the viewer to take into account how one understands ideas of beauty and ugliness.  Although the colors may seem a bit garish at first glance, this is what draws you in.  The blank stare of these clear blue, sleepy eyes had me thinking past the grotesque features Burruso insists we hide or vanquish through various types of cosmetic procedures or measures.  All which we can correct is what we’ve been conditioned to accept as unsightly and unacceptable (i.e., Turtleneck girl’s 5 o’clock shadow or Young Man Fancy’s gargantuan buck teeth).  The colors serve as an unusual disguise to cover up what repulses and opposes our sense of beauty.  Yet this is exactly how Borruso’s paintings and drawings succeed.  They are remnants of our past experiences with something, someone, maybe even ourselves that we have found hideous but in some strange way, you like staring and leering at what you’re not.  Or, perhaps, there’s a bit discomfort because you may be looking at your own imperfections.  If you are anything like me, you start feeling guilty for staring and desire to stop but are unable to do so.  Burruso’s graphite drawings are just as, if not equally, engaging.  You are first attracted to the intricate rendering but within a split-second, you focus on some of the more uncommon facial characteristics of these young subjects and wonder if you should be looking at all.  No pun intended but that’s the beauty behind Burruso’s work.  In looking at more of his work via his blogspot, you will find other portrait oddities.

You will want to check out the threads on the boy in Purple Suede Lederhosen, which serves as yet another testament to Burroso’s expertise and skill in color and use of light perfectly in all the right places.

Originally Posted: February 08, 2008

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Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos is a writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research areas and interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, networked culture, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She is currently the managing editor for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and Public Art Dialogue. She has lectured and spoken at the De Young museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” has been published to The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture in 2016. She serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism, board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center, and teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Digital Art and New Media department.

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