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Exhibition: Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura at King's Leap

Exhibition: Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura at King's Leap

Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura
June 26–July 25, 2021
King's Leap in New York, New York

Some evenings ago, after a dinner with an artist couple in Cologne-one  a  painter,  the  other  a  sculptor-I  brought up a proposition that I had naively and drunkenly dis­ cussed sometimes before. The discussion on this evening though has since stayed with me.

The proposition I made is this:

Painting is the mother of the arts and always has been. Always considerate to its age, it is what constantly seeks to redefine and reformat what is considered beautiful to its time. However, it cannot actually say anything to its time. All other forms of art- sculpture, film, poetry, per­formance, whatever you wish to add-can indeed say something to their time , but they cannot redefine what is seen as beautiful or obtain a level of beauty that painting desires and finds for itself. But, to repeat , painting cannot say anything as the other forms may.

It was gently agreed with by the painter in the couple and resoundingly hated by the sculptor. Being such a ridiculous argument ,  there  may then  be  some merit to it. Though, thinking on it the last few years-mulling it over-I have not been swayed to believe otherwise.

Installation view of Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura

Self Tiling Dmod104_random_linewalk_90degreewalk (Vantongerloo), 2020


Installation view of Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura

Yu Nishimura, overflow, 2021

Eli Bornowsky Isogonal05_D17mod18_17_12 (not not), 2020

Having never  put  these ideas to  writing, the opportunity to consider painting  and this argument  in depth through Eli Bornowsky and Yu Nishimura's work granted me the chance to finally imagine what I may have meant. As such, this is mostly-for better or worse-a loose cohesion of nascent thoughts on the subject. However, it is a subject I hold dear, as the necessity to reignite a conversation about beauty appears increasingly relevant in the surplus of discourse that disregards or removes it from consideration.

However, there are too many words in the argument that would themselves need to be defined first. Most obvious, the definition of beauty would need to be extrapolated, which would take too many references and obfuscations to clarify, and the reader would become lost . Instead, I'd prefer to let the reader define the words how they see fit.

Installation view of Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura

Yu Nishimura face with glasses, 2021

Yu Nishimura reflection, 2021

Installation view of Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura

The works of Eli and Yu are well balanced to this argu­ ment. On the one hand, Eli Bornowsky's paintings rely on a purely mathematical form. Patterned after Delan­ noy numbers and, as the artist says, relying on a sense of "multistability" that is akin to  experimental music, such as Autechre or free jazz, the paintings refer to abstracted tiling and tessellating patterns that are as rhythmic as they are controlled.

Yu Nishimura's pictures are instead hazy, ambiguous in their forms, but   most definitively in the realm and history of figurative painting and portraiture . I could write that these paintings carry the sensibility of the Nagano-born, interwar painter Kai Higashiyama, or that they re-up the consideration of the  portrait in a  window  differing from that of Yoshitomo Nara. But, this is not an exercise in re­ visiting art history, regardless of how  enjoyable that may be for the art historian.

More, I am interested in the desire to  picture, and per­ haps find in the picture, the sense of beauty that I am so wanton to chance across as a viewer and art historian, as this is what really keeps me most interested in and enjoy­ ing of art.

Eli Bornowsky Joules46_D64mod6_2color (majesty traveller), 2021

Yu Nishmura face, 2021

Installation view of Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura

Why does it feel so cheap and dirty to use the word "beauty" these days? And, why does it so rarely cross our conversational thresholds in contemporary  discussion? It is difficult for me to imagine anyone gets into art from the get-go in anticipation of the theoretical and discursive di­ vergencies it will set them upon, and yet that is where we currently set ourselves to be most comfortable . However, as I sit and look at a painting-even while attempting to bring rationalized criticisms towards art at the institution­ al level-I am forever most attracted to its presence as something aspiring towards beauty.

This attraction rests squarely in the idea that painting con­ tinues to redefine what beauty is. However, as stated, I have never found it  to  have the  ability to  say anything like sculpture and other media impart from themselves. I am less interested in the choice of materials or abilities of a painter, as these are all just techniques (techne), which have augmented and aided in the pursuit of redefinition. While they have assisted in the pursuit, they are always a means to the end and never the sole cause for the end. I'd even argue they often get in the way of, and sometimes even hinder, this pursuit.

Attraction rests primarily in the ability to identify, and by identification to enjoy or detest. Carl Sagan believed it was our ability to recognize and perceive others' faces-a pareidolic sense-that was an element to our survival. To look for the human, or the human-like, in an object or en­ tity is a method of survival. Painting, more than any other medium, allows for this identification of the human-the face of the artist-to be perceived and therefore attrac­ tive. But the identification, the visual recognition of a painting, is ultimately philological and mathematical.

Eli Bornowsky Isohedral47_D35mod09 (super arbitrary curves), 2021

Installation view of Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura

Eli Bornowsky Isohedral47_D35mod09 (super arbitrary curves), 2021

Giovanni Morelli, the 19th Century art historian and connoisseur, pursued the identification of  paintings  in such a way. Setting out to observe, chart, and make cer­ tain distinctions used by painters, he came up with what is referred to as the "Morellian Method" of discerning and attributing artworks to painters. This  method  stemmed from his earlier anatomical  and  mathematical  leanings and attempted to  restore in art history the  scientific  ba­ sis it had lacked. His books were different from any other writer on art, less textual and more visual, incorporating numerous drawings and illustrations of fingers and ears, carefully recording the idiosyncratic nuances by which an artist gives themself away. His methods at the time were compared to that of the detective qualities of Sherlock Holmes, and as Edgar Wind has written on Morelli's meth­ ods: "our inadvertent  little gestures reveal our  character far more authentically  than any formal  posture that we may carefully prepare."

In painting, it could be said, the human-and the beauty attributed to it-is allthemore identifiable because of our ability to discern, trace, and assign nuances in a picture. These abilities are geometric in nature, arising from the ability to discern shapes, forms, and figures as separate from one another. In more than one sense, the painting becomes textual, and always dependent upon language to describe what is occurring. However, this language is not purely verbi-voco. It is not even oral or sonorous. It is a language prepared for and prescribed by images, exist­ ing in a realm that is both pre- and post-scientific. It is the painter who becomes most in touch with this language when attempting to define beauty.

Whether a painting and its picture take on the visual pres­ence of geometry and its inherent abstraction, or a paint­ er takes on the qualities of the figure and portrait, the process of their pursuit is rooted in the same language that cannot be spoken but only renewed. As information becomes more and more surplus, the images and pictures created demand a higher sense of identification and rec­ognition. And, it is not only the public that demands the immediate identification and authentication of the artist, but technologies of deep-learning and Al that rely on an­ notation and set parameters to identify a form and its rela­tionships. This increase of identification from parties both human and non-human progresses even further the re-es­tablishment of beauty as a primary desire within pictures.

While some scholars would argue that a participation in politics is necessary for forming an avant-garde identity, it remains all the more important today that beauty-and the pursuit of beauty-be central to the  political program of the arts. I believe that this constant redefinition of the program helps not only resist against permanent identi­fication and classification-which only adds to  authority and power, but increases the abilities of human unde­ standing and bonding that feel forever political.

- Text by Alan Longino

Yu Nishimura blue marine, 2021

Eli Bornowsky Isogonal25_D41mod17 (primary droop), 2020

Installation view of Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura


About the Artists

Eli Bornowsky (b. 1980) is an artist based in New York and Vancouver. Over the last ten years, Bornowsky has shown extensively in Canada. He received his MFA from the Mil­ ton Avery Graduate School of Arts at Bard College. Recent solo and group exhibitions include White Columns Online (New York, NY), Burnaby Art Gallery (Burnaby, Canada), Canton Sardine (Vancouver, Canada), and Unit 17, (Van­ couver Canada). Bornowsky will be in a group show this summer at KAYOKOYUKI Gallery (Tokyo, Japan).

Yu Nishimura (b. 1982) is a painter living and working in Kanagawa, Japan. Nishimura recently staged solo exhibi­ tions at KAYOKOYUKI Gallery (Tokyo, Japan) and Galerie Crevecoeur (Paris, France), both in 2020 . Selected recent exhibitions include The Ueno Royal Museum (Tokyo, Ja­ pan), Tokyo Arts and Space (TOKAS), Hongo (Tokyo, Japan), Gallery Vacancy (Shanghai, China), and Shane Campbell Gallery (Chicago, IL), amongst others.

Eli Bornowsky & Yu Nishimura at King's Leap


Images courtesy the artists and King's Leap. Photography by Jason Mandella