Matt Borruso: Wax House of Wax

Review

Matt Borruso: Wax House of Wax

By Danica Willard Sachs October 23, 2014

In Wax House of Wax, on view at Steven Wolf Fine Arts until October 25, Matt Borruso invites viewers into his carefully constructed house of horrors. Borruso transforms everyday objects into sinister forms in his sculptures and collages. He has equated his painting practice with the making of Frankenstein’s monster, cobbling together disparate parts to create an ambiguous portrait, and he extends this approach to his new body of work, making banal objects uncanny.1

Two surreal collages greet viewers upon entry to the exhibition. On the left, Macramé Pot Hangers (2012) is composed of four copies of the same magazine page overlaid with a duplicate image of a brick-and-tile fireplace and mantel. As a whole, the arrangement of the pages in the collage works kaleidoscopically, moving the viewer’s focus toward the center of the frame. A mess of intersecting and repeating geometric patterns makes it hard to distinguish the borders between the pages. Hanging to the right is Borruso’s Dark Energy (2014), which depicts a B-horror-movie character, Maniac Cop, wallpapered over magazine clippings showing opulent interior spaces with transparent furniture and mirrors. Seen individually the two collages do not immediately have any relationship to each other. Borruso’s clever pairing, however, lays the foundation for the rest of the show. By creating equivalence between the two works through their placement next to each other, Borruso suggests a kind of terror underlying the simplicity of a macramé plant holder.

Entering the main space, viewers find three sculptures, very similar in form, in each corner of the gallery. Encompassing the walls in one corner are large sheets of Xeroxed paper showing what looks like a prison cell. Each object uses burl wood tables as its main component, to which Borruso has added an assortment of seemingly random objects: silicone ears, plastic scythes, finials, clear Plexiglas cylinders, and disjointed table legs. Borruso plays the part of Dr. Frankenstein well: each sculpture begins with the familiar but is made strange through his mutations. The six collages in this main space build on this idea and extend the themes found in the first room. As in Dark Energy and Macramé Pot Hangers, Borruso conjoins images from horror movies with the ordinary: potato pasta is overlaid with metallic armature in Gnocchi (2014), and a natural landscape confronts another character from a B-horror film in Silver Pipe (2014). Entrapped on one side of the gallery by the gridded bars of a prison cell, viewers of Borruso’s exhibition are forced to grapple with his confounding objects and surreal collages. 

Installed in the back gallery, Forming (2012–14) is Borruso’s cabinet of curiosities. If the front room presents a challenge for viewers to parse the relationship between the sculptures and collages, then Forming operates as a kind of way finder. Here, a long table situated in the center of the room and dramatically lit from above holds a neatly arrayed collection of objects. Anchoring one end is a pair of busts—identical but for the fact that one is a clay maquette and the other is the final green cast—depicting a bald man with a full scruffy beard. To the left of these, two dark forms sit on small Plexiglas pedestals. Though both are clearly made of wood and painted pitch black, they initially read as a brain and a phallus. Their juxtaposition with the other strange objects arranged on the table makes clear that Borruso is playing with Freudian associations and the uncanny. Like a Surrealist, Borruso manipulates the banal, challenging viewers to see the horror underlying the everyday.

Wax House of Wax is on view at Steven Wolf Fine Arts, in San Francisco, through October 25, 2014.

Notes

  1.  From an interview with the artist in The Highlights, http://thehighlights.org/wp/interview-with-matt-borruso.

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