U P C O M I N G
55th Art Biennale Venice - Venice - 1.6 to 24.11.2013
Anton Voyls Fortgang / A Void, Guy de Cointet/Channa Horwitz/Henri Chopin – Kunsthalle Düsseldorf - 15.5 to 30.6.2013
C U R R E N T
LONELEY AT THE TOP: Moments on Moments - M HKA Museum voor Hedendaagste Kunste Antwerpen - 22.2 to 12.5.2013
A Group of Six Artists - Aanant & Zoo, Berlin - 26.4 to 15.6.2013
S O L O S H O W S / P E R F O R M A N C E S ( S E L E C T I O N )
Poem Opera / The Divided Person, (Performance), High Line Park, New York
Variations on Sonakinatography #3, (Performance), Pacific Standard Time, Los Angeles
Displacement, curated by Marc Glöde, Y8, Hamburg
What Would Happen If I, Aanant & Zoo, Berlin
Hello is not like I would say goodbye, Aanant & Zoo, Berlin
Sequences and Systems, SolwayJones, Los Angeles
Variations in Counting One Through Eight, Brandenburgischer Kunstverein Potsdam e.V
Searching/Structures 1960-2007, Aanant & Zoo, Berlin
Variances, SolwayJones, Los Angeles
Language Series, SolwayJones, Los Angeles
Structures, University of Judaism – Platt Gallery, Los Angeles
Paintings, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Art Park, Los Angeles
Performances, UCLA Armand Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Paintings, The Drawing Room, Malinda Wyatt, Curator, Tucson, Arizona
Painting and Drawings, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Art Park, Los Angeles. Curator, Maria de Alcuaz
Drawings and Prints, Malinda Wyatt Gallery, Venice, CA
Drawings and Prints, Malinda Wyatt Gallery, Venice, CA
Drawings, Union Gallery, San Jose State University, San Jose
Performances, International Performance Palazzo de Congressi, Bologna, Italy
Performances, Ferrara, Sala Polivalente, Ferrara, Italy
Performances, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
Drawings and Performances, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco
Drawings, Nevada Art Gallery, Reno, Nevada
Drawings, Salvatore Ala Gallery, Milan, Italy
Drawings, Woman‘s Building, Los Angeles
Drawings and Performances, University of California, San Diego
Performances, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California Cal Arts, Orchestrated Stairwell 1 + 2
Drawings, Sculptures, Multi-Media Performances, Orlando Gallery, CA
Paintings and Performances, Valley Center of Art, Encino, CA
Paintings, California State University, Northridge, CA
G R O U P S H O W S ( S E L E C T I O N )
Taipei Biennial 2012, Taipei
From the Age of the Poets, Aanant & Zoo, Berlin
Various Stages - Bedingte Bühnen, Kunsthaus Dresden
Ghosts in the Machine, New Museum, New York
Papier / Paper II, kunstgalerie bonn, Bonn
Made in L.A. 2012, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
How to Make - Ideen, Nationen, Materialisierungen, Kunsthaus Dresden
Systems and Structures, Galerie Casas Riegner, Bogota
Moments. Eine Geschichte der Performance in 10 Akten, ZKM Karlsruhe
Hanne Darboven und Channa Horwitz, Galerie Crone, Berlin
Falling Off a Cliff, Francois Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles
Squaring the Circle, IAC Berlin Gallery & GlogauAIR, Berlin
Works on Paper, Channa Horwitz, Carl Andre, Stephen Antonakos - Organized by Daniel Marzona, Cream Contemporary, Berlin
Dopplereffekt - Bilder in Kunst und Wissenschaft, Kunsthalle zu Kiel
Group Show, Channa Horwitz, Euan Macdonald, Michael Müller, Marcus Civin, Francois Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles
Systeme, M.1 Arthur Boskamp Stiftung, Hohenlocksted
The Human Stain, CGAC, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Zero, Aanant & Zoo, Berlin
Uses of the Real: Originality, Conditional Objects, Action/Documentation and Contemplation, The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at Utah State University, Logan, Utah
Woman Artist of Southern California Then and Now, curated by Bruria Finkel, Track 16 Gallery, Los Angeles
Strings, Strokes, Structures: Four Artists and Generative Logic, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara
Percussion Music, SolwayJones, Los Angeles
Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form, 1940s-1970s, LACMA, Los Angeles
Art/Music, The Colburn School or Music, Curator Jan Turner Colburn, Los Angeles
Beyond Text, Performance, Poem Opera, Beyond Baroque, Venice, CA
Heros and Heroines, Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Ana Village, Santa Ana, CA
Art/Music, The Colburn School of Music, Curator Jan Turner Colburn, Los Angeles
Group Show, Mount St. Mary‘s College, Jose Drudis-Biada Art Gallery, Los Angeles
Woman of the Book, Starr Gallery, Leventhal-Sidman Community Center, Newton, Massachusetts
The Chai Show, University of Judaism, Los Angeles
Six Artists, Finegood Art Gallery, Bernard Milkin Jewish Comm. Campus, Los Angeles
Woman of the Book, Brandstater Gallery, La Sierra University, Riverside, California
Woman of the Book, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis
Woman of the Book, Library at the University of Pennsylvania, Detroit, Pennsylvania
University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona
Boca Raton and Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida
Finegood Art Gallery, Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus, Los Angeles
Drawings, Pardo Lattuada Gallery, New York
P U B L I C C O L L E C T I O N S ( S E L E C T I O N )
Atlantic Richfield Corporation, Los Angeles, California
CGAC, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California
Grunwald Center for Graphic Arts, University of California, Los Angeles
Hartford Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut
Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, Germany
Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Laguna Beach, CA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
Louisiana State University Museum of Art, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Museum Ritter, Waldenbuch, Germany
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Neuberger Museum, State University of New York, Purchase, New York
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Logan, Utah
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California
Security Pacific National Bank, Los Angeles, California
University of Santa Barbara, University Art Museum, Santa Barbara, California
Volt Industries, Orange County, California
Channa Horwitz (* 1932) lives and works in Los Angeles (CA). She studied at the Art Center School of Design in Pasadena (CA) from 1950 to 1952 and at the California state University in Northridge (CA) from 1950 to 1963. In 1972 she obtained B.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts.
In zwei Stunden die Welt notieren (artnet, 29.12.2009)
You once said: „I experience Freedom through the limitations I place on my work.“ Why did you choose limitation as the medium for you to express your freedom“? … Read more
if I had all the money in the world, and I could do anything, I wanted to do, would I be able to accomplish that? No, it would be impossible. I could not see the whole world. I would have to make choices about what I would like to see?: I love to eat fine food. So maybe I would choose to go to Europe, and find the eight or ten best chefs there, and try to eat all of their food. That would be it! The less choices I have, the more freedom I can have to experience those choices. As an example, a teapot on the stove really rocks and moves and makes noise when the heat is on high, because the aperture where the steam comes out is so small on the teapot, that it jumps all over the stove, but a normal pot doesn’t jump when the heat is on high, because there is a big huge opening at the top of the pot.
You just mean concentration…
Limiting your choices gives you power.
Do you feel that a limitation placed on your work is like a form of meditation?
No, I don’t meditate. But it could be thought of as one form of meditation, maybe the fact that I am doing what I do repeatedly is a meditation, though I don’t think of it that way.
You started doing your work almost fifty years ago. How did you start?
I went to art school in the early 1950’s for one year and then I got married and had children. When the children were in school I went back to study art. I was in school for three years and then left when I started to ask my own questions.
For almost 50 years?
Yes, I started to ask serious questions after leaving school in 1963; I had my first show in 1969. I started to ask important questions at that time...
You don’t mean academic questions?
No, I questioned the empty canvas, such as “What would happen if I?’ I attempted to answer that question on the canvas. I always looked for answers that led to other questions where I could find the answers in doing the work.
What did you do next?
By limiting my choice of questions the questions become more powerful...
I think I am starting to understand...
We are talking about freedom of choice and how you came to ask your own questions. Asking your questions as an artist, as a female artist, and not being forced to do what all the others do is quite an autonomous act. Couldn’t you, in a way link that whole thing to women’s liberation?
No, as an artist I needed to search for what I wanted to say. What I said as an artist had to do only with my questions and the artistic answers I could find through my work. I was not interested in doing what anyone else had done; I wanted to create something that had never been done before. I wanted to create new ideas in art and pave new paths to follow.
Asking your own questions and making your own choices –doesn’t that have something to do with your growing need for freedom?
My search had to do with my work and where my questions took me in my work.
A few months ago I interviewed Verena Pfisterer, an artist from Germany. She told me, that she stopped making art, because she was lacking the „mirror“, the feedback ...
Oh, yes, Feedback is so important, unbelievably important ... and I had none.
But you – in comparison to Pfisterer – kept working. How?
I was so desperate for feedback about my work, that when the mail-lady came up the hill to deliver my mail, I would ask her if I could show her what I was doing: Simply because there was nobody else to talk to. My first husband thought that what I was doing was crazy. My second husband on the other hand absolutely loves that I am busy. But he knows nothing about art, anymore then I know anything about his involvement in politics. I mean, he is so happy that I am busy, and I am so happy that he is busy, because I leave him alone to do his thing and he leaves me alone to do mine and we come together to share that.
That’s just romantic.
Oh my god, that is the best! he shares everything with me and I share everything with him. And he is so encouraging ... I mean I am 77 and my career is just taking off.
Did you think, after all this time, that your work would be appreciated?
I thought that my work would be appreciated after I died. I knew that my work was important – because I work in truth, my work is honest.
Yes, you go on with almost the same theme, of „variations“ for almost half a century now. How have you been able to maintain this line of questioning for so long?
After leaving school I limited my choices, I limited my choice of color to black and white, and circles and squares became my motive for all shapes... I started reducing my choices in the middle of the 1960ies. And some years later, in 1968, I did a proposal for the Art and Technology Show at the L.A. County Museum of Art. I did a sculpture with 8 moving parts, and 8 light beams...
There’s that number, the eight! A number, you always use that number in your work.
That’s just because of the graph paper I use. I had a choice between 5, 8 or 10 lines per inch on the paper. Aesthetically I liked 8 lines per inch, by repeating the use of the grid of 8 to the inch made it part of my language. I chose 8 colors, that I am still using.
For the light sculpture, I wondered how the eight beams would look in a given length of time, so I notated the eight beams on my graph paper, showing ten minutes of time..., it was so fascinating to me that I could notate motion. That’s how the notation of sound and motion started, I was really into the idea of notating movement, the fact, that I could describe motion simply by using graph paper was very exciting to me.
Soon after I went on a vacation with my first husband. One day, he wanted to play tennis and I asked for permission to please stay in the hotel room and not watch him play just for a couple of hours. „you know, that is the life I lived, I had to ask for permission to do anything different from the norm. “Well“, he said, „you’re not being very social, but ok, just two hours.“ So I was in my room alone with a pad of graph paper and a couple of pencils and I came up with my „compositions“, Number 1, 2 and 3. And I realized back then, that simply moving the little squares on graph paper I could show anything: I could show motion, it could represent notes, it could represent color. The notations could represent any of the arts! They could describe words, or categories, anything could be expressed through the notations. I felt I had discovered a new language, one that could talk to all of the arts. So, when the two hours were over I had to go to the tennis court, but I took my material with me. When no one was looking I was secretly coloring in all of the little squares on the graph paper. At some point, this lady who organized the tennis games came over, I was trying to hide what I was doing from her. But she asked: „What are you doing there?“ And I showed her this little square of 64 colors ... and she said, „Oh, my nephew made something just like that“ and I got really excited and asked:, what did he make?“ and she answered: „An ashtray.“
Harsh. And stupid.
No, I thought that what I was doing was really dumb, I went from this high feeling of having found a common language that spoke to all of the arts, to feeling really dumb, about what I had created. I had this brand new concept, but I couldn’t really handle it.
You still didn’t give up.
I went back into my studio and I continued exploring. And at one point, I decided, that I wanted to show this new work at my next exhibition. I showed the very first of the notations. I had a performance with dancers, I had the notations, and I showed sculptures called, „ Breathers“, I had slides ... in short: My exhibition was a complete multi-media-show. That is when I first started to call my notations “Sonakinatography” which means sound-motion-notation.
How was it perceived?
A critic from the Los Angeles Times wrote: „Pretty Notations by Valley Housewife“ and another critic ... when I showed my work to her, said: „ Channa, I really don’t believe that what you do is art!“
But, how did you continue with your work with comments like that?
Because I really believed in what I was doing. And I don’t need other people to say that what I do is great. I just need to believe in what I do.
But what struck me, is, how did you do that for so many years, without any recognition. How did you manage that?
I was very lucky, because I had a husband that really supported me to do my work. From the very beginning I had an incredible studio, and all of the supplies I needed. With all of that I could do anything I wanted to, I could invent the world! And approval? Yes, that’s important, but approval only tells me what I already know. I couldn’t go on working for as long as I did without knowing that what I was doing was important. Without feeling it. I don’t know if my work is good or not, but it is truthful, and it’s honest. Maybe I will never realize any acceptance for it, but I felt that my children would. So I felt that my work was an investment for them. And that’s why I took care of it. And then, one day, Michael Solway found me, the gallerist from Los Angeles. He came over to see my work.
When was that?
Maybe nine years ago ... Michael came over to my studio. He sat down on my drafting chair and was swinging around a little. Then he said: „You know, Channa, normally, when I umm meet an artist your age, I love their old work, but never their new work. But with you, I love your old work and I really love your new work.“ I thought:... I waited my entire career to hear that, and now that I heard it, I can go on, I don’t need to hear that anymore.
Getting to know the works of Channa Horwitz certainly did not trigger any nostalgic feelings in me, although this could well have been the case on encountering an artistic endeavor that spans such a long time. Channa Horwitz, living in Los Angeles, looks back on 40 years of creation, and yet, to me, even as a relatively young art critic, who just recently met with her works, these appear very fresh. They are likewise touching – in their consistent and comprehensible openness, with which the artist has for decades been dedicating herself to developing and carrying out her own language of pictorial systematics – and impressive in the breathtaking complexity of happy findings arriving within the tension-filled love for structural thought. However, initially Channa Horwitz did not as much strike me as the conceptual artist, in the general sense, which she actually is. I rather glimpsed the graphic artist, who not only takes an idealistic pleasure in executing well-structured, well-regulated instructions, but for whom also the act of “thinking with the hands” counts, which emerges in many parts of her creation precisely in the form of graphical works. As early as in the sixties, she developed a source language of her own, conceived with an open end, from eight different, complex, basic elements of circular and rectangular shapes in various arrangements. She eventually made a discovery that was decisive for the further progress of her creation. This therefore dominates everything written about her, and shall not be neglected here, either. Channa Horwitz realized that the strict adherence to a previously determined set of rules by no means leads to increased self-deceit and hospitalistic rigidity. She even goes so far as to say that it is exactly by actively reproducing the algorithmic structure once determined for what is to follow, that artists can probably attain the greatest degree of freedom. … Read more
From today’s point of view, some decisions that have lead to shaping her rule-generating structures seem arbitrary at first, if comprehensible at all. Apart from the restriction to the “colors” black and white for instance, this also applies to her selected patterns of eight for the permutative programming of her multiple linked numeric chains: She bases all her series on the numeric sequence of 1 to 8. She however only operates with “natural” integers – and zero, consistently, does not appear, either (except of course there, where her structures do not extend to, as ever-present backdrop). We are therefore not dealing with a classic octal system (in contrast to our ubiquitous decimal system with the digits 0 to 9): On the average, people can allegedly identify no more than seven objects without having to count them, and the octal numeral system based on the number 8 consists of the digits 0 to 7 and therefore accommodates human nature. Perhaps the digit 8 stands out on the level of figures in contemporary mathematics in that it represents the digital figure utilizing all seven “digits”. An octal system can easily be converted to other numeral systems that are a power of base two. Apart from the binary system (base 2, symbols 0 and 1), these include especially the base-4 system (base 4, symbols 0 to 3) and the hexadecimal system (base 16, symbols 0 to 9 and A to F). I mentioned a possibly arbitrary decision – and according to Horwitz, this decision should be taken, or more precisely, should already have been taken if a sense of freedom is aspired to. Even within the setting of early minimalism, the idea that freedom is not against structure, but rather within structure is certainly a perception not naturally arrived at in the mid sixties, i.e. at a time prior to the society-wide culturalization of revolting against the structures of power.
The earliest works (from 1964 on) that were created in the sense of the already mentioned and other predeterminations had a comparably simple basis. In contrast to many of her contemporaries, who were nuts about the Fibonacci numbers – with far-reaching art-historical effects – Horwitz did not get high on the early computer artists’ phantasms of infinity. In her algorithmic it is rather the direct engagement with the here and now of daily work that she seeks.
Certainly, the geometric order based on the “grid” that Channa Horwitz created as her “motor”, can be called strict and rigid. But the artist accepts the imperfection of her structure drawings and shape complexes created slowly by hand – and not at a frantic speed performed by machines – with apparent composure. The at times visible corrections, the almost always visible “handwritten-ness” of her graphic art does not warrant for artistic originality and ingeniousness here, but rather for the humanity in the definitely affective dealing with the complexity of higher orders. It is reminiscent of the still existing custom among Persian carpet knotters, according to which small weaving errors should be left rather than corrected, for “only Allah is perfect”. But in a different context, Horwitz once wrote: “As I see the world, it appears to have grown and evolved through a series of chances. My life and how it evolves appears to be determined by chance; but in reality, it is a structure directed and determined by my desires, both conscious and unconscious. The theory behind my work is that if structure plays out long enough, it will appear to be chance. It won‘t be chance, it will only appear to be chance.”
Over and above the numeric sequences, it became important to Horwitz to extend her system to other orders. These would then no longer refer solely to the numerically comprehensible reality, but would rather – by dint of the additional dimensions color, time, space, rhythm, and energy – allude to an abundance of experience possibilities to be found in her system of structures. The abstract, picture-like drawings thus created have often been compared to the works of Op Art in their increasing complexity, intentionally overstraining the capacities of the viewers’ eyes; to the patterns of Steve Reich’s Minimal Music or to the elaborate scores, notations, choreographies of synesthetic music, dance and performance arts describing movements. Movement actual is very important to Horwitz. There are the movements of her eight elements in time and space, and each movement with a notation corresponding to the length of an inch represents a “beat” for her. Her system generates a flowing, pulsating, visual rhythm that – from a musical point of view – perhaps best corresponds to the Indian musical genre of Raga. A certain trancelike seduction also emanates from the subtle variations in her drawn structure patterns, evoking associations to dance and music on a very direct, physical level. In her latest works that take up the basic inventory of shapes from the mid sixties, some viewers might identify the suggestion of a laughing human face – at any rate, Channa Horwitz’ world is one acquainted with the human body.
A few years ago, there was a children’s series on Japanese TV, for which a famous film sequence of only a few minutes was created. The aim was to explain the function of an algorithm to elementary school children. This abundantly abstract teaching problem was translated into the so-called “Algorithm March”, of which hundreds of variants meanwhile enjoy a long-lived popularity on the Internet. In front of a Kyoto temple
district, we first see an exercise instructor, dressed in black, demonstrating a series of steps and movements to the children, accompanied by a catchy song. This series consists of eight movements – stretching out arms, flapping arms like a penguin, bending knees, turning around, holding hands above eyes as if looking out for something, bending down and picking up an imaginary chestnut from the ground, bowing to the person in front, etc. It is a beautiful (coincidental?) parallel that this series of activities also exists of eight elements – what is even more beautiful, however, is when the series is afterwards executed by eight persons (the others are Ninja) simultaneously, with regard to each individual type of movement, however, shifted by one phase: While the first person performs the first movement, the second one performs the second, etc. Then the first person performs the second movement, the second person the third movement, etc. This beautiful chain of activities, commented on by nursery rhymes, could be continued indefinitely – but of course the creators of the film have come up with an idea for a natural ending. Even while the question, how long this can possibly take, is being sneaked into the rhymes, we suddenly hear dogs barking – and the Ninja quickly disperse in all directions.
It goes without saying that such a short film is rather simple as compared to the wonderful, universal structures Channa Horwitz generates within her system. But in a downright infectious manner the film also shows us that the world of algorithmic, repetitive chains and its rhythms created by segmentation conveys to us a technique of insight and ecstasy engaging both body and mind. In the works of the California artist, these appear as the rarity of an artistic technique of happiness, grown in the experiences of a life time.
During this show of recent work by veteran Los Angeles artist Channa Horwitz, there hung, in the gallery‘s back office, a schematic pencil-and-collage version of her proposal (dated 1968) for „Art and Technology,“ the landmark 1970 exhibition at the Los Angeles County museum of Art. (The processed piece, featuring floating colored fluorescent lights held in position at designated intervals by means of powerful magnets, was not accepted—nor was the work of any other woman.) With an understatement consistent with this artist‘s approach, the work‘s presence here telescoped four decades of studio toil and implicitly celebrated the deliberate unfolding of a long, fruitful and still-thriving career. … Read more
Stealing the show (titled „Variances,“ all works 2007) were two series in casein on paper, each consisting of eight individual works. Both are predicated on a circle centered on a square sheet, over which two sets of innumerable closely spaced parallel lines are painted. The tautly ruled lines could pass for colored pencil; they form a scrim through which the circle is glimpsed, and their differing angles of slant produce the optical crackle of moiré. In „Pink to Burgundy Circle Variance,“ the components progress in size from 13 inches to 28 inches on a side; the circle is orange and the palette of overlaid lines deepens through the series, from the pale and frosty no. 1 through yellow and green, slate blue and sturdy red, ending with the darkly radiant no. 8, in which the lines are maroon and blue-black. The overall effect is as sonorous as a foghorn. The „Brown to Green Circle Variance“ series displays a similar progression, keyed to the title colors. Here the circle remains the same size throughout while the sheets become larger, so that in no. 1 it is contiguous with the edge of the 13-inch-square sheet but floats within the surrounding field in the 28-inch-square no. 8.
Horwitz has long-standing ties to the L.A. dance and music communities, and it is easy to imagine these steps corresponding to the eight-tone scale. While the artist‘s attitude is rigorous and systematic, the effect of the inevitable, minuscule deviations in her conceptual program is unexpectedly sensuous.
A number of works on paper explore interval and interference using a central rectangle shape, but these are less compelling than the two largest works, 42-inch-square black-ink drawings in which the salient optical mechanism is plain to see but nevertheless entrancing. In Wave Moire I, two sets of parallel lines crisscross a large white disk that looms out of surrounding black. One slants left and one right just a few degrees from the vertical, producing that moire effect of movement and secondary pattern, in wavering lateral bands where the sets of lines crisscross. Wave Moire II features a disk of tightly spaced concentric circles, again centered on the sheet, overlaid with right-leaning lines. The optical confusion is here confined to a horizontal band through the center of the circle. In our current revisiting of Op art, this fascinating body of work is an important reference point.
Channa Horwitz‘s elegant drawings and paintings derive their design from a simple mathematical language, and the minute variations of their predetermined patterns play out in this exhibition across multiple series. Informed by a Conceptual imperative, Horwitz‘s oeuvre falls somewhere between Minimalism and Op art, though it avoids easy placement in either. Repeating an array of eight colors and angles, the work presented here possesses the subtle, hypnotic quality found in Sol LeWitt‘s wall drawings, though Horwitz art is tempered by a quality not found in his ruler-derived compositions: The grids, at first glance seemingly automated, reveal on closer inspection imperfections that bring a necessary human element to the work. Like Mary Heilmann and Agnes Martin, Horwitz infuses cool geometric abstraction with an unexpected warmth and humanity, so subtle as to be almost missed. … Read more
The paintings in „Variances“ are crafted from strict limitations, an Oulipian gesture that paradoxically frees the work. Horwitz extensively deploys moiré patterns, highlighting the interference created when two or more grids are set at angles to one another. Intersecting lines forming circles and squares create seemingly infinite permutations. In a series titled „From Pink to Burgundy Circle Variation,“ color grids intersect on eight canvases, each larger than the one that precedes it. And though each work shivers with its own optical electricity, seen together the series moves more like a musical composition than a mathematical problem. Conceptual substance couples with visual delight in this longunderappreciated and nearly forgotten artist‘s impressive practice.
The recent Investigations exhibition at Barnsdall Art Park was an exhibition of systematic, interactive and experiential artworks that explored the linkages between art, mathematics and science. Arnong the artists in the exhibition were several who employ systematic processes that mitigate the artist‘s self determination and expressive role. Artists who create and employ systematic processes invest themselves in the process and allow the system, to varying degrees, to determine their design. There is a sense of beauty in the complexity of the system and in the patterns that emerge as the process plays out. The exhibition of the work of Channa Horwitz represents this curator‘s continuing interest in art that is the product of a blending of intuitive and systematic thinking. … Read more
Channa Horwitz is an artist who has developed and still employs a systematic process that has determined her work for the past 25 years. According to Horwitz, she was the only female artist to have been included in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art‘s A Report on the Art and Technology Program, (Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art,1971) by Maurice Tuchman. Horwitz‘ proposal (then Channa Davis) is described in this report as: ‚Suspension of Vertical Beams Moving in Space,.. would employ time and light in choreographed movements based on a modular grid system. The piece would consist of eight cylindrical beams made of clear plexiglas, with programmed movement in each. The beams were to be suspended by magnetism or jets of air“ (p.81).
Channa Horwitz was educated at Art Center School of Design, California State University, Northridge, and at the California Institute of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited since 1963 as paintings, drawings and performances. Selected solo exhibitions of visual work include: California State University of Northridge in 1963; Orlando Gallery in Los Angeles, in 1969; The Women‘s Building in Los Angeles, U.r. San Diego and U.C, Irvine in 1974; San Francisco Art Institute, and Salvatore Ala Gallery in Milan, Italy in 1976; the Malinda Wyatt Gallery, Los Angeles, in 1981 and 83; and at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in 1988. Selected multi-performances include those at: Orlando Gallery in 1969; Cal Arts in 1973; Cal Tech and The International Performance Palazzo de Congressi in Bologna, Italy in 1974; and at the U.C.L.A. Armand Hammer Museum of Art in 1994.
Horwitz explains her motivation to develop a visual notation system that could refer to space and time: „I had knowledge of classical visual compositions, and I could compose two-dimensionally, as in painting and drawing. I could compose tree-dimensionally, as in sculpture, but I had no ability to compose in the fourth dimension, time. I could not conceive of how a choreographer or musical composer could compose time. Because of this inability, and a need to compose, I devised a system that would allow me to see time visually. I felt I could use a graph as a basis for the visual description of time.“ (Horwitz, unpublished notes, 1996)
Horwitz has created a structured process which is drawn as a graph but which can be read as sound or movement and can be seen as a colorful visual composition, heard as music or watched as a performance. She created the word „Sonakinatography“ to refer to the process of representing sound and/or movement as visual notation. Horwitz‘ process is structured in eight increments; each numeral refers to its own duration in time so that #1 equals one „count“ and #8 equals eight „counts.“ She assigns chromatic values to each number so that #1 is green and #2 is blue and #3 is blue-green, and so on through the color wheel with #8 as yellow-green.
The system is not an end in itself, only the initial product of Horwitz‘ artistic endeavor. Using her system of notation she creates compositions: These are visual arrangements—squares of color arranged on a grid which are then shifted and repeated, again and again. These compositions follow a progressive logic in a circular sequence, much like a musical round. Her sequences follow patterns such as: 12345678, 23456781, 34567812… or 123456787654321. The sequences are played out until every permutation has been realized at which point the composition is complete. Each composition is a unique design and progression, and results in a different pattern.
„I now think of these choices or limitations as rules for a game. I know that by limiting my choice to the least number of choices, and questioning the work… I experience freedom through limitation and structure. It would appear that limitation and structure are dichotomies to freedom, but through experience I have found them to by synonymous and the basis of freedom. The (work) of John Cage is based on the theory that through chance comes structure, or that if chance plays out long enough it will become structure. The theory behind my work is that through structure comes an apparent chance. If structure plays out long enough it will appear to be chance. As I see the world, it appears to have grown and „is“, through chance, but it is, as I see it, a design that has many entities all tied together into a huge structure, and the world plays out in so apparent chance that is really a structure. We are too close to the structure to see it. My life and how it plays out appears to be based on chance, but in reality is a structure directed and controlled by me and my desires, both conscious and unconscious. My life cycle flows as all things in nature flow from small and closed to full and open to shriveled and smalI. The cycle of life as I see it is circular. The beginning and ending are only one step away from each other.“
Channa Horwitz‘ ideas are evident in the experience of her work. Her paintings consist of long columns made up of small squares of color composed as graphs. They appear complex and it is sometimes difficult to discern the pattern in her designs. The viewer can see rhythms - shapes that grow broad, then narrow, then grow broad again - although the rhythm is progressive and not repetitive. The counting sequences are mind-boggling, and yet are simpler than they appear. Horwitz has charted each composition to completion in order to reveal their systematic overall structure.
In speaking with her about ideas of order, chaos and complexity, Channa Horwitz will state her ultimate belief that in any complex or seemingly chaotic situation, there is always structure; and that if the structure is not evident it is only because the viewer has not achieved the perspective required to recognize the pattern. In his book entiteld „The Artful Universe“, astronomer John D. Barrow writes: „The worId around us is full of patterns: of light, of sound, and of behavior, As a result the worId finds itself well described by mathematics, because mathematics is the study of all possible patterns. Some of those patterns have concrete expressions in the world around us—where we see spirals, circles, and squares. Others are abstract extensions of these worldly examples; yet others seem to reside purely in the fertile minds of our conceivers“ (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995, p.230). Channa Horwitz is one of these „conceivers“ and her artworks offer a model of this experience of discerning pattern and perceiving structure. Through these artworks the viewer or listener is challenged to sense the rhythms in the work. And—if ane is good with logic—to sense the underlying progression that is at play in each composition.
September 18-November 10, 1996, Junior Arts Center Gallery, Bamsdall Art Park
Curated by Noel Korten
System n. 1. Orderly combination or arrangement, as of parts or elements, into a whole; specifically, such combination according to some rational principle; any methodical arrangement of parts. 2. In science and philosophy an orderly collection of logically related principles, facts or obicets 3. Any group of facts or phenomena regarded as constituting a natural whole and furnishing the basis and material of scientific investigation and construction: the solar system…¹ … Read more
The impulse to order, the pursuit of a logical and complete whole, has long been a motivating force in artistic creation. We recognize the existence of harmonie proportions in a Greek temple, in the measured and clearly articulated spaces of a painting by Piero de la Francesco or Poussin, in the order wrested out of dynamic equilibrium in a composition by Mondrian. Generally, the pursuit of order has been based upon a belief in the existence of an ideal state of harmony or equilibrium. A vision of harmonic unity might be momentarily revealed by an object possessed of divine proportions, a transcendental state embodied in and revealed by the physical.
The art of the 1960‘s and 1970‘s has been characterized by a general skepticism about the possibilities of meaning in an art based upon „principles of composition“ defined as the intuitive balancing of unequal parts. Mondrian‘s assumption that a state of harmony, a dynamic equilibrium, could be grasped by intuition has been replaced by a desire for absolute order, symmetry and balance that is real and observable. The modular structures of Judd, Morris, Stella, Andre and others have offered a symmetry which can be grasped by any observer. It is not mystical but something real, observable, tangible. The ubiquitous grid of the 1960‘s and 1970‘s as it appears in the art of Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt and others, presents an ordered surface which might be read as an aggregate of equal units and as a continuous field.
Another contemporary method of ordering is the creation of a system, self-defined and self-contained, consisting of a few known variables which act according to rules for their interaction and combination. Typically, the systems adopted by artists have been extremely simple. They may, however, appear to be complex, as the methodical unfolding of a set of variables becomes dense and difficult for the viewer to read and reconstruct.
The work of Sol LeWitt explores this paradox of conceptual simplicity and visual complexity. The wall drawing in this exhibition is a new work created according to the following instructions sent to us by LeWitt:
#285 The wall is divided into more or less square modules. Within each module, at the discretion of the craftsman or woman, a vertical, horizontal, diagonal left or right not straight, or broken line bisects the module. All modules are filled at random. White chalk lines on a black wall (pencil grid).
If we have drawn it accurately and have not intruded upon the artist‘s concept, it will have a clear sense of structure even though the same instructions followed by another group of people in another place might produce a different set of linear combinations. LeWitt‘s wall drawing is not a „composition.“ Any sense of lyricism, illusionism, movement or other interpretive readings are coincidental and not intended. Symmetry and regular rhythm are build into LeWitt‘s plan for the piece but even they are not its „subject“ As LeWitt stated a decade ago,“The idea becomes a machine that makes the art…“
What the work of art looks like isn‘t too important. It has to look like something if it has phisical form. No matter what form it may finally have it must begin with an idea. It is the process of conception and realization with which the artist is concerned…
Conceptual art doesn‘t really have much to do with mathematics, philosophy or any other mental discipline. The mathematics used by most artists is simple arithmetic or simple number systems…²
A system, once created and put in motion, can become a method of inquiry. The visual result of the interaction of variables may not be foreseen, but as the system unfolds, it functions as a clear, steady path opening up unknown territory, The paradoxical relationship of a simple plan and a camplex result becomes part of this exploration.
Channa Horwitz‘s work explores a visual-numerical system based on a constant group of eight units. Movements of these eight units are plotted in space and time. She describes each successive shift of position as a „beat.“ Thus, her work has a pulse, a regular rhythm created out of the logical, predictable sequence in which these variations take place. The variations, once grasped, are extremely simple. A unit may move over one space in one direction with each successive beat. It may move over one, then two, then three and so on until it reaches the limit of eight. The pattern may be repeated or varied through extended space and time.
Many of her compositions are plotted and described in a matrix which is an integral part of the work. The matrix describes the variations mathematically and locates their relative positions in space. The same matrix may be used to create a number of different works because it describes relationships but does not fix scale, the size of an individual unit, nor the visual signifier for that unit, color, width, and so forth.
When these variations and relationships are translated into colored lines in space, squares within a grid or points along a curve, the nature of their rhythmic variations can be grasped visually. Some of Channa Horwitz‘s early compositions are expressed as colored squares within a grid. The grid is repeated as it moves in even beats from the bottom to the top of a sheet of graph paper. At other times,variations within a matrix are described along a line which is read from left to right. Recent work has involved a plotted curve. The line grows as it is repeated according to an even rhythm.
The visual projection of space in Horwitz‘s latest work is astonishingly beautiful. Regular variations of linear structures create curved planes and waves of space with a strong rhythmic pulse. These complex structures are created out of the simplest forms of arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. With the earnestness and precision of an explorer, Horwitz continues to project her original matrix in space. While the final form may be dimly perceived and is unknown until projected upon the graph paper, her path is clear. Each step is a logical consequence of the preceding one; mysteries are revealed in the midst of clarity.
Horwitz can, of course, see the nature and structure of her essential composition within its original matrix. The matrix rnight be compared to a musical score which can be played by a larger or smaller ensemble and transposed for various instrumentations. Horwitz‘s work can be played as music, danced, or constructed as an environment. All of these options have been explored in recent performances of her work. This exhibition includes a live performance of Horwitz‘s Composition III by Scott Higgins and a taped interpretation of the same composition by David Mahler for the Buchla Synthesizer.
Feburar 23 through März 25, 1978,
An exhibition presented at the Baxter Art Gallery on the campus of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California in cooperation with the Pasadena Art Alliance.
Dr. Susan C. Larsen, Guest Curator
Logic for Variation and Inversion on a Rhythm, 1976
Pen on paper, 28,5 x 26,5 cm
Investigation of Shadow for the Painting Series called "Circles and Squares", 1967-68
Photography, Part 1/2: 43 x 58 cm
Investigation of Shadow for the Painting Series called "Circles and Squares", 1967-68
Photography, Part 2/2: 23,5 x 31 cm
Circle and Square on Cube, Studies #2, 1968
2 parted work, Acrylic on cardboard, each 29 x 49 cm
Circle and Square or Square and Circle, 1968
Plaka on wood, 29 x 29 x 29 cm, edition, 10 copies + 1 AP
Circles on a Cube, 1968/2011
Varnish on MDF, 40 x 40 x 40 cm, (Edition #1 of 8)