JONATHAN BOROFSKY stretches the traditional museum to its limits. In his show opening at the Corcoran this Saturday, self-portrait mannequins fly overhead and outside a window. A string of blue hoops busts through a door, pulsates with light up to the ceiling, then breaks through a skylight. The floor is littered, the walls covered with drawings and sayings. Not a single painting hangs straight.
"The whole show is about a search for freedom," says Borofsky. "My own search for freedom, and the search for freedom on the planet." Borofsky doesn't know all the answers, but he's learned some of the questions. He poses them here, in a total environment that immerses the viewer in the mind of Jonathan Borofsky. He even invites us to play Ping Pong, on a camouflaged table in a war games room.
In one room we find five 24-foot-tall black men rhythmically "striking" with motorized arms. In this installation, they're dubbed South African miners, but they're the worker in all of us. Scattered in other galleries are "Chattering Men," sculptures with motor mouths whose "sounds of the world" represent the enslaving internal dialogue.
Freedom for Borofsky means turning off that noise. Freedom "has to do with having a clean spirit with which to absorb all the beauty around us," he says.
Through a 58-minute documentary on prisoners, being shown in the gallery, Borofsky explores the absence of freedom as well. Interviewing 32 prisoners in San Quentin and two women's penitentiaries, he and a colleague made the tape over the past year.
Borofsky is the kind of guy who takes two years off to count.
In 1969, he started with the number one, neatly written on graph paper with a Bic, in what he terms "an attempt to focus on pure thought processes. I had been sculpting many images for a long time, and my brain wanted something written to do."
Two years later, he just started to doodle over the numbers. Doodling saved him. No longer obsessed, he still hasn't lost his taste for enumeration, having recently reached 2,941,494. He numbers his pieces with the number attained when he was painting or sculpting them, the way some people record the date.
Borofsky has been criticized for talking about himself too much. But he's using the model he knows best to make statements about the world. He explores his own inner life; dreams, free associations and childhood memories are the meat for many of his paintings, sculptures and constructions. Bringing them together under one roof he considers a work of art in itself.
The first sculpture we encounter here is an enormous androgynous ballerina wearing a clown's mask. Many feet tall, in some sense he/she represents to its creator the yin and yang, the passive and aggressive. He'd like to get beyond these "dualities . . . to a new kind of energy."
As if to sum it up, the right leg of this "Dancing Clown" moves in time with a taped version, hummed by Borofsky, of "I Did It My Way."
JONATHAN BOROFSKY -- At the Corcoran Gallery of Art through February 2, 1986. Admission ($1.50 for adults and 50 cents for students and senior citizens) also covers entrance to the Richard Avedon photo show.