September 21 - November 4, 2023
Corbett vs. Dempsey is honored to present Gregg Bordowitz, Tetragrammaton, featuring a selection of recent monotypes. This is CvsD’s first exhibition with Bordowitz and is the artist’s debut in a commercial gallery.
"The tetragrammaton is an ineffable, unpronounceable four-letter Hebrew word, the name of G-d in Judaism that spells creation into existence daily,” says Bordowitz. “It is never uttered and appears only in written form.” In these monotypes, Bordowitz concentrates on the letters of the tetragrammaton: yodh, he, vav, and he. Writing them over and over, every line drawn from a shape in one of the letters – an action determined by a numerological system – he arrived at a series of abstractions, dense, energetic and evocative, each one unique. He describes the prints as concrete poems. “They come out of an abiding interest in contemporary visual poetry and also a centuries-old meditational practice of rearranging the letters in one’s mind.” Bordowitz cites key affinities with concrete poets Gerhard Rühm, Mary Ellen Solt, and b.p. nicol, as well as a deep influence from the calligraphic work of Ben Shahn.
Renowned as an activist artist, writer, and teacher, best known for his video and performance works, Bordowitz began his artistic life four decades ago as a painter. The Tetragrammaton prints are a return to working in 2-D visual media, evolving organically out of an active drawing practice that he formalized in this extensive body of printworks. In preparation for an exhibition at the University of Buffalo Art Galleries in 2021, Bordowitz began working with master printmaker Marina Ancona at 10 Grand Press in Brooklyn. He initially experimented with images in gray scale, then purple, eventually other colors, and expressing a desire to work with a “rainbow roll” in honor of Pride Day, he instigated a subseries using the color spectrum of the non-binary flag. “In Jewish mystical traditions, G-d has both masculine and feminine sides and is not anthropomorphized, in fact not depicted at all, so is all genders and no gender,” the artist explains.
Ever respectful, Bordowitz emphasizes that he undertook this new body of work with the utmost sincerity, care, and respect for the Jewish traditions around the tetragrammaton. With a religious childhood and educated orthodox, Bordowitz’s work has been permeated with Judaism, Jewish culture and Jewish humor. “There has always been Jewish content in my work, in every area, including the videos, as well as the recent performances and book titled Some Styles of Masculinity. In that work, I conjugated Jewish identity with other aspects of myself – queer, pinky-left.” In Tetragrammaton, Bordowitz extends his personal journey as an artist, writer and poet, combining these activities using a method that is both systematic and expressive, private almost to the point of hermeticism and publicly vibrant with a joyful, subversive twist.