The work of the American artist Jonathan Borofsky is characterised by a wide array of expressive forms; their diversity cannot be fitted into one stylistic concept. Therefore, his exhibitions and installations never fail to surprise one with their completely contrary appearances, ranging from the sparse arrangement of elementary pictorial ideas to the chaotic mixture of image-clichés. At the end of the sixties, Borofsky aimed at combining the formal austerity of minimal art with the direct imagery of Pop Art, in order to express new approaches of subjective figurativeness and content-oriented meaning. In 1967, Borofsky stopped producing "art objects" and began writing down his ideas and meditations on numbers, presenting them as a series of photocopied books at several conceptual-art exhibitions. He began his counting with number one in 1969, before resuming his pictorial and sculptural work in 1971, now autographing his works with numbers indicating their respective current position in an ongoing process of counting.

The thematic focus of Borofsky's art lies in his own identity as an artist, in the investigation of his particular psychic emotions and physical actions. This self-understanding is not based on keeping to a distance from the social context which the artist is part of, however, but - quite to the contrary - seeks an unmediated link with the unavoidable reality of his life-world.

The visual representation of his thoughts, emotions, fears, dreams, experiences, etc., is for Borofsky at once method and therapy, aimed at grasping the different aspects of his own state of being. The resulting pictures and structures possess, as subjective elements of his being, an archetypal meaning which, through the inductive process of artistic mediation, inspires the viewer to project his/her own processes of experience into the framework of the exhibition. In this respect, Borofsky understands his works as self-portraits, not limited to figurative illustration, but as symbolic expression of his being which is determined, beyond individual features, by thoughts and action. Making aware one's own existence as part of a space of activity defined by one's own history, as well as by the social context, subsequently leads to thematising determination through time. The archetypal images created by Borofsky therefore do not express a process of reflection on a certain problem brought to an end, but time and again prove their universal meaning in new thematic variations and contexts. In his "Thought Book (1967-1970)", Borofsky summarised these intentions of his work in two programmatic statements: "My thought process is an object"; and: "As an artist, my goal is to present ... illustrations of my thoughts regarding the meaning of time."

Borofsky's installations often confront one with a complex bundle of images and pictorial elements relating to each other visually and conceptually. These different aspects in the individual works are accentuated by including them in changing contexts; their individuality thus appears as a function within a larger context.

In the exhibition at Portikus, Borofsky presents an installation which makes this content-oriented connection in his work-complexes evident, and which utilises the entire architecture of the building. The main focus of attention are the Heartlights: four sculptures, each consisting of a red lamp and a loudspeaker mounted on a tripod. This audio-visual system permanently transmits, optically and acoustically, a digital recording of Borofsky's heartbeat. The installation is accompanied by the current section of his counting, which Borofsky has been continuously pursuing since the beginning of the 70s. In Portikus, they appear as a numerical sequence, the digits of which are placed in the grid of the skylight. Finally, Borofsky designed a banner for the outside facade of the building reading "Alles ist Eins" ("All is One") in Persian and German - an idiom which he has also continued to integrate in his installations as a kind of slogan since the 70s. In addition, the exhibition at Portikus establishes a connection to the gigantic sculpture Hammering Man erected at the same time at the Messeturm (Fair Tower).

Photo: Katrin Schilling