With the liberation of a child, Horowitz not only blitzes and blisses out the eye, but evokes the subversive implications of living out our desires.
Through March 30. Johannes Vogt Gallery, 958 Madison Ave, Manhattan
Marc Horowitz’s newest paintings are all variations on the same composition: stark backgrounds resonate like a crisp sky, as chunky stick figures pulse like balloons. As in Rothko’s chapel, or Rembrandt's self-portraits, Horowitz repeats and alters the same idea in a series. And, as Rothko reduced his palette to shades of black, focusing on rectangular forms, and Rembrandt to shades of brown, focusing on the self-portrait, Horowitz’s latest interest can be compared to these exalted masters: his works, as packed with juicy color as ever before, have discarded earlier structures and devices (inkjet prints which allowed for complex puns on rendered horses, landscapes, etc.) in favor of an undeniably primal composition.
Horowitz described this progression away from any obvious ability to draw, and especially the use of pastiche, as a “hazing.” Earlier work may have sought to prove some knowledge, or skill, but abandoning these supports he soars. The solar radiation of his colors relies only on the crude stick figure.
The experience the artist had while making these recent paintings is that of total intense fervor and excitement. Horowitz describes the moments when, in a high-wire-act, he pushed and pulled, dashed and drove the heavy, mushy, vibrant oil sticks over the minimalistic background. Other marks, using the brush, were loaded with an alchemist’s mixture: pigment mixed with oils, varnishes and other esoteric mediums, which were whipped to a certain perfection.
The combination of heady technical skill and the ability to let oneself go completely is just one of the tightropes Horowitz walks. The artist is in a process of balancing a dualism in his personality: one being sophisticated intention and the other, a motive of instinctual play.
Horowitz’s earliest works involved performance and social interaction — especially with new media. He existed in the strange space between comedian, prankster, entertainer, artist and philosopher. For example, in 2004, national media picked up an impromptu project in which the young artist wrote, “dinner w/ marc” with his real phone number in a product shot which was printed in a Crate and Barrel catalog. As a result, he took a trip across America, where he met and broke bread with strangers.
In 2010, Horowitz embarked on the “Advice of Strangers” project: audiences voted on his daily decision making and watched the results. This included the intimacy of his therapy, where strangers voted if he should talk about his “mother,” “boundaries,” or “work.”
Because of the personal conflicts caused by such experiments, this was the beginning of the end for Horowitz’s clowning, brilliant interruption of the normalcy of daily life, and exploration of internet culture. Horowitz often describes his subsequent painting practice as a move “inwards.” He retained his knack for humorful subversion, but his work became more introverted.
Importantly, throughout his painting career, Horowitz has retained his comedic personality, but without the dramatic entanglements of the outer world — both in the entertainment business, but also in regard to the basic interpersonal necessity of performance-based creativity.
The ability to aesthetically express his inner playfulness is reminiscent of certain philosophical notions in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Carl Jung. Both thinkers emphasized the way in which society generally tends to train an individual to repress their essential desires. It is through the creative exploration of basic desires that the primal unconscious is accessed, rather than unleashed to hedonistic detriment. In Horowitz’s paintings, there is the tangible sense of an artist who lets his most child-like passion for creativity express itself.
It is this basic willingness to live out the instinct of play that defies a broadly felt restrictiveness that appears as drudgery and nihilism in the modern world. Horowitz has always defied the basically repressive aspects of our social, economic and political influences through this basic value he has for play.
Whether it is out of an irony which struggles against some infective meaninglessness, or out of a tendency towards humor and absurdity, or even just for the sheer hell of it, Horowitz has made a life of his quirky, idiosyncratic thoughts and desires.
According to Deleuze, it is the energetic tap of our desire that creates new paradigms. For Jung, the connection with a playful inner child is the key to reorienting individuals and society, revitalizing their souls, which are starving in a materialistic, capitalistic world. When an individual taps into this deep well within, their vitality flows out into the coexistent world (think: Deleuze’s “plane of immanence,” or Jung’s “collective unconscious”).
Marc Horowitz embodies this freedom in his painting practice, and when we take in his paintings, we glimpse that potential within ourselves.
Marc Horowitz show, “Nothing on the Other Side of the Slash,” is up through March 31st at the Johannes Vogt Gallery, 958 Madison Ave, Manhattan.