Depart Foundation / Los Angeles
Humor is often a neglected muse in the production of fine art. Seldom is it thought of as a legitimate field of cultural inquiry or a productive platform for the creation of an aesthetic. Los Angeles-based mixed media artist Marc Horowitz, known for his socially experimental practice and his penchant for pranks, however, begs to differ. His current exhibition, “Interior, Day (A Door Opens),” attests to the symbiotic possibilities of comedy and art. In his first major solo exhibition of painting, sculpture and drawing, Horowitz offers a cleverly staged mash-up of art historical references and popular culture, with the affable lightness, comedic timing and understated depth for which he’s known.
With an art practice driven by social experiments, made in the spirit of waggish relational aesthetics, Horowitz has relied heavily on social media and web-based platforms. “The National Dinner Tour” (2004) was spurred by a cheeky intervention made while working on the commercial production of a Crate & Barrel catalog. The artist wrote his name and number on a dry-erase board featured in a home-office product shoot, and upon distribution of the catalog, the intervention undetected, Horowitz received more than 30,000 calls. He spent the subsequent year on a nationwide tour making dinner plans with strangers. In another notable project funded by Creative Time entitled “The Advice of Strangers” (2011), Horowitz crowd-sourced everyday decision making for an entire year of his personal life; everything from what he should wear to what he should eat, he offered up to public scrutiny and popular opinion. By co-opting commercial marketing strategies, Horowitz has cleverly reasserted a disobediently human quotient into an otherwise impersonal and quantified approach to social information.
Unique in his resistance to cynicism and his desire to connect, his work conveys playful irreverence; it is a candid offering activated by self-conscious social poetics. Horowitz also enjoys drawing attention to the very act of viewing; even his titles reveal the inner-workings of this near cinematic sensibility: Ding. The Elevator Opens (all works 2015) and The Camera Moves Close Until Her Ear Fills The Frame, are cases in point. And Horowitz wants his viewers to become a part of the staging. A master of the mise-en-scène, Horowitz arranges objects, people, references, encounters, but preserves enough room for accident and aberration, allowing the end-result to emerge in the spirit of contingency. Unexpected outcomes and spontaneous results, though marshaled by clever positioning and gestures, allows viewers to lose their balance long enough to see something new.
“Interior Day (A Door Opens),” represents a return to painting for the artist after 15 years of working in more ephemeral and experimental media. The exhibition is polished and thoughtful, but just like Horowitz, doesn’t take itself too seriously. The paintings are gestural, funny and complex; the sculptures combine classic statuary with junky bobbles worthy of an Olympic-level hoarder—and protruding phallic noses, somehow a constant reminder that the comedian is lurking somewhere in the wings. A cardboard cutout gondolier frames a phenomenal large-format painting in a back room, and a campy, giant oversized bunch of plaster grapes surprises you around a corner. At every turn there is something unexpected, just enough to create the productive space of imbalance in which Horowitz thrives.
Show ends Jan. 30. 2016