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by Nancy Kay Turner

“Turtle Clock,” copper, façade
of The Remba Gallery,
permanent installation, 1999.

“Turtle Clock” (detail), copper,
façade of The Remba Gallery,
permanent installation, 1999.
(The Remba Gallery, West Hollywood) Jonathan Borofsky has made his reputation with bold, aggressive, diaristic and frequently playful installations. At his retrospective exhibition at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary work he did as a youngster was placed on pedestals. His dreams were literally written on the walls. Handwritten pages from notebooks were casually push-pinned in place. In recent years Borofsky concentrated his energies on one concept at a time. In one instance his art consisted of his counting and writing numbers down for hours on end--an obsessional marking of time. In all of these earlier and later works, movement, sound and repetition have been essential elements.

His current installation is a clock composed of seventy-two identical interlocking copper turtles measuring 15' by 40' by 1' which are affixed to the façade of the Remba Gallery. This is a non-traditional clock in form as well as style. It is composed of twelve rows of six turtles each. The first row on the left represents one o'clock and each succeeding row represents the next number and hour. The turtles mark the hour by moving their heads in and out of their shells. At noon and midnight all the turtles wag their heads simultaneously for one hour.

With the exception of digital clocks, which are reduced to just numbers, all other clocks or timepieces from ancient sundials to modern analog watches are round. However, this rectilinear turtle timepiece is a truly post-modern conceptual clock which invites the viewer into a speculation on the very nature of time itself rather than just focusing on the mere noting of the passing of time. With the choice of the turtle, a symbol of longevity to the Chinese and a symbol of perseverance to Westerners, Borofsky extends his meditation on the meaning of time both physically and spiritually.

In an interview that he gave in 1993, Borofsky said "I like the word spiritual because I don't really know what it means, but I do believe it applies to finding your connection to the All. I've always felt that my search, whether I had a particularly chaotic work or a particularly simple one, has been a way to feel connected to the Whole."

This statement clearly articulates his goals for the current exhibition and especially the accompanying exhibition inside the gallery, which is entitled All is One. Smaller cast copper turtles are arranged in geometric patterns around the gallery. The turtles are identical except for the direction that they face--some face right, some left and others stare straight ahead. In a pre-election year, one can't help but think of the political ramifications of "left,","right" and "middle of the road." Each turtle is anonymous and in a sense indistinguishable from each other, almost like a number. Alone, each turtle is insignificant, and yet, together they are a force to be reckoned with.

Borofsky's work has matured and here we see the elegance of his idea. The inherent simplicity of the work ---creating multiple pieces out of a single element, which corresponds to set theory in mathematics and feels influenced by Buddhism--becomes both visually and intellectually satisfying. This marks the second successful collaboration between the Remba's and their Mixograpfia studio with Borofsky.