Critics’ Picks

View of “The Choice We Face,” 2014.

View of “The Choice We Face,” 2014.

New York

Keil Borrman

495 Rogers Avenue
April 19–May 18, 2014

Keil Borrman’s second solo show in New York, “The Choice We Face,” is—to quote the press release—“a collaboration with some of New York’s leading audio designers.” For this exhibition, Borrman completed over twenty new paintings, many of which were designed to function as acoustic shields for the crown jewel: A hyperfabulous analog sound system composed of equipment lent by high-end audio-fetish manufacturers such as DeVore Fidelity, Rogers High Fidelity, VPI Industries, and Grado Labs.

On opening night, little attention seemed to be paid to Borrman’s luscious abstract paintings in dourly preppy pastels. Exemplary works such as There Goes the Mortgage, 2009–2014, or Assessing a New Demographic, 2011–2014, became the backdrop when viewers were being seductively throttled by records from Malian band Tinariwen, David Bowie, and Albert Ayler. A pair of chic little stools upholstered in linen canvas, titled The Sweet Spot (Collaboration with Paul Jacobson), 2014, were built at the perfect squatting height near the turntable, amplifier, and speakers, so that one could immerse oneself utterly in deluxe aural sexiness, the experience of which recessed the artist’s painterly contributions in the show even further.

Or did it? A smart and subtle maker of gestures and things, Borrman is not always keen to announce his intentions front and center as a-r-t. His preferred place of action is in the periphery, for it seems that much of his production, à la relational aesthetics, functions as a support—to borrow a painterly term—for artists adjacent to him, such as Bowie, Ayler, or DeVore. On Borrman’s terms, the act of painting seems most profound when it whispers, enmeshed within the quieter caprices of daily life: started after work, before walking the dog, and, inevitably, while listening to good music. Pay attention to living like one would a beloved record—casually, but focused—and the picture gets bigger, lovelier, and happier when you least expect it.