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Jul

06

By:

Taylor Zakarin

Jonathan Borofsky (American, born 1942) Five Hammering Men, 1982

Anyone who has walked through NorthPark Center can easily point out or recall Jonathan Borofsky’s Five Hammering Men, the work composed of five larger than life black silhouettes, with motorized arms moving up and down in a hammering motion. What many do not know is that this work is one of four works by the artist at NorthPark. Just around the corner from the beloved Five Hammering Men is White Flying Figure with Numbers and Chattering Man Looking Up at 2,887,433, both of which are on loan to us from the Nasher Sculpture Center. Additionally, we have a large steel Hammering Man just outside of the Neiman Marcus entrance on Boedecker. If you cannot tell by the sheer multitude of works we have by the artist at NorthPark, the Nashers are huge supporters of Borofsky’s work. The Nashers first began collecting Borofsky’s work in the early 1980s, purchasing a total of eight works by the artist over 20 years. Raymond Nasher once described Jonathan Borofsky as one of the most significant artists of his generation, adding, “I particularly like the way he can work on a monumental scale and still make objects with wit, spirit, and meaning.”

Jonathan Borofsky (American, born 1942) Hammering Man, 1984-85

Five Hammering Men depicts five dark profiles of anonymous workers with heads bent and motorized arms hammering away at their work. The monotonous gesture of hammering could be viewed as representative of the tedious tasks of assembly-line workers. The repetitive movement could also be understood as a prototype of the artist whose work is never ending. The artist himself has stressed that the figure has an overlay of personal, political, and social meaning.

This hammering figure is consistent throughout Borofsky’s oeuvre. According to the aritst, “The Hammering Man is a giant, and it goes back to my childhood. I liked to sit on my father’s lap and have him tell me giant stories – especially about friendly giants. The Hammering Man is also a worker, and I idolize the worker in myself… At the same time, it seems that the boring, monotonous repetition of the moving arm implies the fate of the mechanistic world.” I think it is a perfect fit for NorthPark, a hub that is always buzzing with workers, whether it is a store manager closing up at 9PM, or the cleaning staff waxing the floors at 4AM.

Jonathan Borofsky (American, born 1942) Chattering Man Looking Up at 2,887,433, 1983

Borofsky began his career as a conceptual artist, but by the mid-1970s he was defying the limits of conceptualism and assembling environmental installations. His work is often playful, inspired by his dreams. Borofsky considers himself a student of the mind, and has said one’s mind is chattering all day and all night. In fact, one of the main questions I am asked about Borofsky’s work while leading tours or working with students is about the numbers that are often painted or etched onto his sculptures. The artist told Carnegie Mellon Magazine (the magazine of his alma mater), that he became fascinated with numbers. He notes that he became less focused on the “making of things and more [focused on] thinking about things. I looked for a way to simplify the thought processes. I began to do little number sequences on paper almost to pass the time and not have to think so deeply. As he spent hours a day writing numbers down, he would come up with an idea and sketch it next to the number he was on – these are often the numbers you see written on the completed work, or incorporated in the works title.

Jonathan Borofsky (American, born 1942) White Flying Figure with Numbers, 1984

I hope you enjoy Borofsky’s work at NorthPark Center as much as I do! For more information about NorthPark's art collection, visit our Art Tour page.

Jonathan Borofsky (American, born 1942)
Chattering Man Looking Up at 2,887,433, 1983
Painted wood, steel, motor, speaker, audio file
82 1/2 x 23 x 13 inches
Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection
Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas

Jonathan Borofsky (American, born 1942)
White Flying Figure with Numbers, 1984
Acrylic, ink, sealer on cast urethane
19 1/2 x 37 7/16 x 61 3/8 inches
Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection
Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas

Jonathan Borofsky (American, born 1942)
Five Hammering Men, 1982
Painted wood with steel, aluminum, foam, Bondo, and electric motors
Each figure: 175 x 72 x 6 inches
Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Collection

Jonathan Borofsky (American, born 1942)
Hammering Man, 1984-85
Painted steel plate, Cor-ten steel, and motor
240 x 108 x 18 ½ inches
Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection
Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas

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