[“Afterlife” (2002-2009), dispersed pigment, ink, & polymer on canvas. “About the Car,” (2006-2009), dispersed pigment, ink, & polymer on canvas. “Basket Weaver’s Defense” (2005), dispersed pigment, ink, & polymer on canvas.]
Borrowed from the title of a book of poetry by Wallace Stevens, Sharon Horvath’s “Parts of a World” will be up at Lori Bookstein Fine Art through November 25, 2009. Borrowed from the title of a Wallace Stevens book of poetry published in 1942, “Parts of a World” is a tribute to the poet’s lifelong involvement with “the incessant conjunctions between things as they are and things imagined.” Additionally, the titles of several of the shows paintings—including “Dezembrum,” “Palaz of Hoon,” “Description Without Place,” and “Human Arrangement”—are borrowed from his poems.
Exhibiting 20th and 21st century of American art—with a focus on American Modernist art and second generation New York School artists—Lori Bookstein Fine Art opened in 1997 on the Upper East Side before its October 2009 relocation to Chelsea. This is Horvath’s first show with Lori Bookstein and the gallery’s inaugural exhibition in its new Chelsea space.
An amalgam of sources inspire Horvath’s personal iconography—including the paintings of Quaker icon Edward Hicks (1780-1849), self-taught "schizophrenic artist" Martin Ramirez (1895-1963) who created nearly 300 drawings within the confines of California’s DeWitt State Hospital, French painter Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) whose career revitalized the Baroque idiom that became known as Rococo, Italian painter Sassetta (1392-1451), Medieval World maps, Etruscan funerary objects, Roman fresco painting and furniture, and the writings of English psychiatrist D.W. Winnicott (1896-1971) and the poetry of American Modernist Wallace Stevens (1879-1955). The poetry of Stevens—meditative and philosophical—closely relates to the composition and narrative of her paintings.
Rhythms of ordinary experience figure prominently in Horvath’s paintings whether as glimpses captured in a rear view mirror, little league playing fields of Brooklyn, breaking waves on Cape Cod, or highway exit ramps under construction. Whether points of departure constitute a poetic reference or mundane object, Horvath’s subjects are imbued with a lyricism transcending the original material. Her created world’s imagery is eerily palpable without ever being literal. This “third space,” as she has called it, is “an intermediate territory distinct from either inner or outer worlds.”
Horvath confounds and transcends what constitutes such “worlds” as interior and exterior, far and near, and figure and ground. By working up to and often over the very edge of her canvases, she explores the paradox of painting as both object and picture. Her paintings are populated from time to time by small figures or images incorporated into or caught in the web of her structures. Like the compositions themselves, these inhabitants occupy an ambiguous space and place, as if fossilized or metabolized into slow-growing organic structures. These tiny figures are not unimportant for being small. They are mischievous, and active. In an essay which has captivated the artist, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) wrote about the narrative activities in the world of his “little people” at play: “Tales where a thread might be dropped, or one adventure quitted for another, on fancy's least suggestion. So that the little people who manage man’s internal theatre had not as yet received a very rigorous training; and played upon their stage like children who should have slipped into the house and found it empty, rather than like drilled actors performing a set piece to a huge hall of faces.”
In Horvath’s distinctive painting method, the viewer is always aware of looking at a handmade object, tangible like the body, with metaphorical skin and bones. Using acrylic polymers and dispersed pigment on canvas or paper, Horvath builds up her surfaces much like a textile weaving—lines of color crisscross into shaky grids or merge into organic systems. These built-up strokes form dense layers—the result of an intuitive, layered “conversation” between the painter’s sensibility and the natural restrictions of the painting process. What begins as the ground is by the end of her process often illegible as such, while elements apparently at the surface may recede to the background and vice versa. She has said of her painting, “I’d like you to see a place as if you are hovering far above it, and at the same time digging in the ground. You are large, then you are small. When you are small you can enter into things. When you are large you can see more. Artists enjoy making these switches before our eyes.” Culling from representations of worlds tiny enough to follow the laws of magical thinking—and maps of the world and cosmos—Horvath opens up strange interior landscapes for others to glimpse.
Horvath is a recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Grant for Painting, the Jacob H. Lazarus-Metropolitan Museum of Art Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, the Anonymous was a Woman Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Award for Painting, the Edwin Palmer Prize in Painting from the National Academy Museum, and two Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grants. A fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown during the late 1980s, Horvath is an associate professor of art at SUNY Purchase.
Parts of a World: Sharon Horvath
Through November 25, 2009
@ Lori Bookstein Fine Art
138 Tenth Avenue, New York City 10011