Abstract Delight in the Everyday

Robert Bordo’s work moves away from the representational, straddling the serious and playful

Less is more in the recent series of abstract paintings by Robert Bordo at Alexander and Bonin. The artist’s previous work used postcards, maps, and envelopes as points of departure. In this exhibition, the tentative ties to representation almost fall away.

All the paintings presented are modest in scale and have a certain casual quality reminiscent of Mary Heilmann or Joe Fyfe. Executed in a fast, thin, wet-on-wet technique, these paintings usually involve two elements or processes that question each other.

“Open Studio,” 2003 and “Daybreak,” 2004 both use rectangular outlines on pale grounds. Perhaps they portray the wall of the studio or a building? These paintings help show where Bordo’s work has come from; though the lines and background are tentative, the representational can’t be denied.

The newer works enter the realm of more complete abstraction. Working with the incidental and everyday, these paintings don’t shout. The colors, light, and shapes all remain unspecific but feel environmentally informed. “one man show,” 2005 is comical with its pale green background covered with Tasmanian Devil-like motion marks. These marks, made quickly with a brush, gravitate toward the center of the canvas to create a combination that opposes but completes.

A sky-ground relationship exists in “another day,” 2005, as a wide swatch of brown divides the canvas. Quick tiny dots and slashes move across the surfaces of three works—“suite,”2004, “lazy game,”2005, and” prickly pear,” 2005––invigorating and adding levity. The most recent painting “head wind,”2005 with its fast even slashes of horizontal blue punctuated by a few olive-like shapes feels incomplete, as though it almost got away.

“(wipeout),” 2005 is bold and fearless, showing the bulk of the image wiped away leaving a faint trace, while a small portion at the bottom remains full strength and acts as a reminder of the original idea. Intentional withholding is implied in “all you get,” 2004, and strikes a balance between field and ground. Nonchalant dots interspersed over the surface of the painting give energy and create a counterpoint to the airy composition beneath, creating an exciting give and take.

Bordo’s recent work seems to let nature seep in under the edges. As the title suggests, there is much to be appreciated in the small and everyday. These paintings present a freshness and intimacy that is not common, straddling the edge between the serious and playful.