Shotgun Review

The Hermit’s Revenge Fantasy

By Jessica Brier September 20, 2011

Matt Borruso’s latest solo exhibition at Steven Wolf Fine Arts is one of those rare occasions when the ideas illustrated by a group of work so perfectly reflect the character of the artist himself. The exhibition’s title, The Hermit’s Revenge Fantasy, says it all: Borruso is decisively smart and snarky, enchanted by the camp genres of science fiction and fantasy, and is himself somewhat of an obsessive shut-in.1 This exhibition includes a selection of Borruso’s immaculate pencil and paper drawings, paper collages made of vintage magazines, board books and LP sleeves, and a two-channel video installation, all made within the last two years.

Borruso has crafted his fascination for the grotesque into a signature artistic style. His collages ruminate on gross and bizarre combinations of food and forms, such as Spam growing out of an orange slice or an afghan partly covering a disgusting alien. He finds aesthetic harmony in the most discordant pairings, whether using the horror-movie tropes as metaphors for overconsumption or using super-saturated colors to heighten viewers’ alternating sense of fascination and disgust.

The back room of the gallery showcases How to See (2011), a two-channel video that pairs a looped scene of violence and struggle from each of the films They Live (1988) and The Miracle Worker (1962). Again, Borruso has observed a poignant connection, this time between two unlikely films. One is a sci-fi thriller about a drifter who discovers a pair of sunglasses that reveals the elite upper class to be, in fact, a race of disguised evil aliens trying to take over the world, and the other is a dramatization of Anne Sullivan’s struggle to teach Helen Keller how to communicate in the human world. Both orbit around the idea of sight as a metaphor for enlightenment and agency in a world stacked against us.

Borruso’s work offers the possibility that both artists and viewers “through creative means…can construct a personal universe: a world that is both a reflection of the self, and an ideal place to escape to."2 The video installation in particular suggests the potential of art to help us see, in all senses of the word, in a time fraught and uncertain. I am left thinking that learning how to see is the hermit’s ultimate revenge fantasy.




In Search of Space, 2011; cut paper collage; 22 x 14 in. Courtesy the Artist and Steven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco.



The Hermit’s Revenge Fantasy is on view at Steven Wolf Fine Arts, in San Francisco, through October 8, 2011.



1. Full disclosure: the author has worked with Borruso in a curatorial capacity and visited his studio in 2008.
2. from the exhibition press release.

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