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Posted at 4:31 PM ET, 05/14/2007

Sketch Artists

By Julia Beizer

It was shaping up to be a pretty typical Monday before I rolled up to 1644 North Capitol Street. I was there to check out a preview of "The Consolation of Ruin," an exhibition of work by the Borf Brigade that will be open from 6 to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday, this weekend and next.

For those of you who have managed to miss the area's many Borf-tagged walls, signs and mailboxes, the Borf Brigade is a local collective of graffiti artists. Borf became more widely known in 2005 with the arrest of John Tsombikos, an art student credited as the group's most prolific tagger.

I'd love to report on what's on view at this show, but the viewing was somewhat limited at this preview. Since the installation isn't quite finished, a Post photographer and I were blindfolded and led inside the dilapidated building. (My blindfold was a standard bandana, while my compatriot got a pink silk tie -- like something out of a slasher flick.) We were led into a tomato-red-painted back room with gold stenciling that looked like plumage of some great, tropical bird. Other than that, there was a red body-shaped figure covered with a trash bag, a ladder, paint, the template for the aforementioned stenciling and a pretty cool riff on the famous Eddie Adams execution photo made out of smiley-face stickers. Since I didn't get to see any of the other rooms, I can't say for sure what to expect at this exhibit. It smelled like sawdust, but I think that's only because the building's owner asked that the Brigade bring the building up to code before exhibiting there.

The guy who led us around the show -- a friendly, if uninformative, goggle-wearing chap who declined to give his real name -- told us that some of the court documents from Tsombikos's run-in with the law "have been Borfed" and will be up on the the wall. Photography and video work will also be on view alongside paintings and installations. Some proceeds from the sale of artwork will go toward the $12,000 Tsombikos must pay the District in restitution for his outdoor escapades. Borf Brigade representatives say that other proceeds will go to an as-yet-undetermined suicide prevention charity.

The opening reception is this Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. Organizers have assured me that no one will need to wear a blindfold.


By Julia Beizer  | May 14, 2007; 4:31 PM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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Aww, just read the Press Release....
After a brief time-out, the Borf Brigade, is learning
to use their inside voice. Transforming a derelict and dilapidated music
hall in NW DC into the Institute for the Advanced Study of Delinquency and
the Arts, Borf's first show opens the last two weekends of May, featuring
pieces ranging from the first stencils ever cut to new explorations in
re-sculpting interior space. Maintaining a disregard for convention and
rules, Borf approaches fine art with a wit and spontaneity that has
carried the legacy of Bobby Fisher, whom the graffiti is a tribute to,
across borders worldwide. Resisting self-negation, the show places its
emphasis on the joy of discovery rather than any aesthetic of the streets.
Reflecting a personalized approach to education and experience that builds
from traditional graffiti and street art, the stencil and paint can have
been temporarily set aside for the brush and the canvas.

Creating many of their "banal objects" within the Memorial Building as
renovations took place, careful planning and an attention to space were
paid to create a striking and engaging space. The exhibit holds two floors
of pieces, some for sale which will act as a fundraiser to benefit the
District of Columbia's $12,000 extortion of ex-Borf participant John
Tsombikos who is banned from even possessing a pencil or glue stick in the

Borf graffiti, seen all over Washington, commonly associated with the work
of one artist is in actuality the work of The Borf Brigade, a tight-knit
group of vandals, visual artists, and juvenile delinquents of all styles,
shapes, and sizes. For the past three and a half years, DC has been
littered with the remnants of their adventurous nights and illegal
escapades, from highway overpasses to mundane and forgotten park benches.
Borf actively seeks to challenge the numerous forms of degradation and
exploitation existing both structurally and within the ebb and flow of
everyday life. Functionally, their graffiti serves as DIY grief therapy,
providing an exciting alternative to over-prescribed anti-depressants and
the abuse of continually being bored and ignored. Instead, property
destruction, proper construction, and dialog function in chaotic harmony,
essential to the project's growth process. At its root, Borf is both a
consolation and painful reminder of one of the 30,000 Americans between
the ages of fifteen and twenty-four who will take their own lives every
year. In this reality, the problem of the youth within modern capitalism
is part of the total crisis of this society. It is just that youth feels
the crisis most acutely.

Posted by: Chuck's Assistant | May 14, 2007 10:09 PM | Report abuse

This is just celebrating criminal behavior by petty criminals who fancy themselves as romantic revolutionaries.

Mr. Tsombikos should pay back the $12,000 on his own through the sweat of his brow --not this lame attempt at charity.

A real charity by this "brigade" would make ts mark IN society, not ON it (to borrow and old slogan). Perhaps they could hold art classes for underprivleged kids. Or draw portraits of vets in Walter Reed. Or create nice murals for sick kids in cancer wards to look at as they go through painful chemo.

Posted by: Andrew | May 15, 2007 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Borf isn't Banksy.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2007 10:19 PM | Report abuse

My fingers are crossed, I really really really hope the police sweep in and arrest those poser fauxhemians for vandalism. The art world needs these over-privileged, under-talented losers like a hole in the head. The Borf Brigade is a label like a giant "kick Me" sign or "The Young Republican Vanilla Ice Fan MySpace/Facebook Fan Club." Go to it guys! your mother thinks your special, so maybe you can do your own gallery show!

Posted by: DCer | May 15, 2007 11:29 PM | Report abuse

As if the Post didn't take enough criticism for glorifying Tsombikos' criminal behavior in the Style section and for meeting with him before his arrest without reporting him to the police. Now you put this in the Going Out Gurus column. That's more proof that the Post thinks DC is a toy to be played with. No wonder this city has so many problems.

Posted by: Rob Halligan | May 16, 2007 7:26 AM | Report abuse

These losers have inspired me to form my OWN blight of misfits called -- "The BARF Brigade". Our band of social miscreants will exist only to drink to excess, vomit on the shoes of NORMAL residents, and pressure the recipients for a donation for having experienced the privilege of such "artistic expression".

Posted by: MikleG | May 16, 2007 7:50 AM | Report abuse

People sure get riled up about this guy. I loved seeing his art around the city.

Posted by: DC | May 16, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse

replying to "DC", you loved seeing his "art" around the city?

do you live in a hovel and like it when bums urinate on your doorstep, too?

Posted by: are you insane? | May 16, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

You all are the same people that would stand in line for hours for a Basquiat retrospective just because some Curator told you to.

You should be grateful that some young people are looking for a creative way to reach their peers. You should be thanking these young men for caring about their fellow man, not blasting them for trying to make their art accessible to young people.

It's not like they're tagging your front door for gosh sakes.

Posted by: Not DC anymore - Thank goodness! | May 16, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

This is exactly the kind of reaction Borf's art is supposed to generate. You naysayer guys are vying your support even if you didn't realize it. You gotta love (the delinquent) arts!

Posted by: commie | May 16, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

John T. just writes 'borf' on everything and the DC art snobs think he is great? Come on John, there is a war going on!!! Where is the political statement in a rich bourgeois white kid trying to get attention from rich mommy and daddy just writing 'borf' on everything!?
Maybe they should change their name to the "BORED" brigade. You guys aren't punk... you're poseurs!

Posted by: dc | May 16, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

You all are the same people that would stand in line for hours for a Basquiat retrospective just because some Curator told you to.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

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