Tooth & Claw: Recent Paintings and culpture by Brian Borrello

Portland, OR. – Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art is pleased to present TOOTH & CLAW: RECENT PAINTINGS AND SCULPTURE BY BRIAN BORRELLO opening on Wednesday, May 11th with a public reception for the artist in the Gallery from 6-8 pm.

Brian Borrello works as a visual artist and designer, dividing his time between studios in New Orleans and Portland, Oregon. In his art for the public realm, Borrello constructs unique objects and environments that activate outdoor spaces in response to local history and context.   Over his professional career as a working artist, Borrello has designed and created sculptures for elementary schools, cancer treatment clinics, community gardens in blighted neighborhoods, and toxic waste sites.  

TOOTH & CLAW is Borrello’s first solo exhibition in Portland in over 8 years.  For visitors to this exhibition, he has fabricated an immersive environment of his paintings, sculpture and neon objects that suggest a wild unrestrained natural world constructed almost entirely out of visibly unnatural materials.   TOOTH & CLAW takes as its central theme the attempts, often futile, of creating a deeper awareness of human life in balance with other life forms and the environment that we all share on this planet.

In my larger ‘conversation’ with the world, I am motivated to co-create localized and meaningful places and environments, and to transform uninspiring or aesthetically-bereft urban spaces into interesting and enriching community assets.

His two dimensional works are often rendered in a ‘fresco-like’ technique of ink, charcoal and motor oil on marble impregnated linen. In his work, growth patterns, principles of biological organization and natural phenomena are magnified and expressed through the lyrical movement of a root, the curve and projection of a thorn or the sinuous tangle of mycelia. In his art for the public realm, he seizes opportunities to make and co-create interesting 'places' by activating urban spaces with provocative forms and unexpected encounters, reflecting deeper localized contexts of history, community and living processes.

Borrello’s current projects often develop as part of municipal urban infrastructure construction, and are usually transit related. For example, the iconic "Silicon Forest" that is featured at the Rose Quarter MAX light rail station appears as a grove of solar-powered, LED illuminated metal tree forms, complete with seating “stumps” and an illuminating “campfire”.  This popular installation refers to both the forests that once thrived at the site, and to future technologies like a silicon-based “photosynthesis”.

I believe in the power of the human imagination…individuals can shape their own world by envisioning and then acting upon one’s personal vision with commitment, courage, and small steps forward. 

In Borrello’s graphic work, he offers us meditations on the delicate interrelationship that humans and other life forms share on the planet.  Often these images are rendered in carbon-based materials, like charcoal, India ink, or oil, to reflect the carboniferous origins of life on Earth.  Like diagrams for all life processes, the botanical drawings and paintingsexpress both the process of becoming of plant and fungal forms while also suggesting a state of eventual decay. 

Borrello’s sculpture are impressions of ecosystems, marked by the influence of human industry and activity that also document the temporal nature of life on earth. 

Recent large-scale sculptural projects in Oregon include the fabrication of a pair of towering pink magnolia buds which now stand sentry as a large scale “gateway” monument defining the entrance to downtown Tigard,  and a 21 foot tall sculpture of stacked Corten steel elements for “Slabtown,”  that was just installed outside Besaw’s   Cafe on the corner of NW Raleigh and NW 21st.  

Nationally recognized for social practice In response to handgun violence, Borrello organized the project “Guns in the Hands of Artists,” in New Orleans (1996), Washington DC (1998), and Portland (2001).   The latest iteration appeared to widespread acclaim in 2015 in collaboration with the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans, and has since traveled to the Aspen Institute as part of the Aspen Ideas Festival and Forum.

Borrello earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Arizona State University, with post-graduate course work in architectural engineering.  He has taught at Pacific NW College of Art (PNCA), Loyola University, and the University of New Orleans where he ran the sculpture department for two years.   Borrello has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship award, and his work was featured in the Portland Art Museum's 2001 Oregon Biennial, where one of the paintings was purchased for their permanent collection.