Artist: Jonathan Horowitz
Exhibition title: 304.8cm Paintings
Venue: Sadie Coles HQ, London, UK
Date: March 26 – May 30, 2015
Photography: Images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London
Jonathan Horowitz’s spring 2015 exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ,
304.8cm Paintings, features new series of paintings traversing themes of art and technology – from the expressive mark, to the printed page, to the digital screen. Uniform in scale – each canvas measures an identical 304.8 cm (ten feet) in height – the works address the concept of translation and its inherent imperfections, using art-historical and pop-cultural icons as ciphers undergoing refraction and reformulation.
In two new series, Horowitz extends his previous appropria-tion of the art of Roy Lichtenstein, whose paintings of mirrors (themselves translated from comic strips) depict light bouncing off glass in slanting bands of colour and chains of Ben-Day dots. Four six-panel canvases reproduce Lichtenstein’s broken diagonals on a giant scale, with each panel painted freehand by a different assistant, dispensing with the regulatory mechanisms of rulers and stencils. At first glance, the paintings appear as Lichtenstein facsimiles. Up close, they become painstakingly laboured self-portraits of the different painters who made them. The slick aesthetic of Pop Art is thereby reconstrued in a hand rendered and composite form, producing a wavering tension between duplication and distortion, anonymity and expression.
A related work focuses on the motif of the Ben-Day dot, which has been enlarged and distanced from pictorial context. In Horowitz’s work, the dot equivocates in status – caught between its original pictographic function (as a rudimentary transmitter of meaning) and that of an abstract Minimalist form. Trying to approximate a diameter of eight inches, a hundred different people have painted freehand a hundred dots. Arrayed in a grid, the dots vary in size and regularity, at once echoing and subverting the regimented abstraction of much Minimalist and Constructivist painting. En masse, they enact a push-pull effect on the eye, their suspended and imprecise forms simultaneously hinting at and resisting the illusion of depth.
Seriality as a motif of Pop art is invoked in a new series of portraits of Beyoncé, arranged in the modular format of Andy Warhol. Horowitz has lifted the images from a Pepsi advertisement which itself pastiches the overlaid tints of Warhol’s Marilyn silkscreens. Downloaded from different websites, the combined portraits demonstrate a wobble or discrepancy in resolution and skin tone, holding up a figurative mirror image to the dot paintings. The oft-fetishized imperfection of Warhol’s screening process is here translated to a digital realm, the printing being uniform, the posting of images where mutation occurs. As in previous works, Horowitz looks at a celebrity whose identity is itself ‘in translation’ – a fluid construct moulded for and mediated through the popular imagination.
In one large portrait of the pop icon, a low-resolution file is downloaded from the Internet and blown up to a 304.8 cm /10 ft square. Owing to the degradedness of the image file, she hovers at an impenetrable remove, evanescing into a sea of inkjet dots analogous to Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day dots. As much like Warhol’s Mao as Marilyn, she is the corporate face of a multi-cultural generation, a universal blank slate, downloaded and reposted ad infinitum by her millions of fans.
Jonathan Horowitz (b. New York, 1966) has exhibited work internationally since the early nineties. Recent exhibitions include Your Land/My Land: Election ’12, staged concurrently at seven museums across the US (from the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles to the New Museum, New York, 2012); minimalist works from the holocaust museum, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, Scotland (2010-11); Apocalypto Now, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, (2009); and the retrospective exhibition, Jonathan Horowitz: And/Or, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2009). Horowitz lives and works in New York.