Sadie Coles HQ presents Jonathan Horowitz’s spring 2015 exhibition ‘304.8cm Paintings’, featuring a 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, the artist extends his previous appropriation 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 or 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, the works become painstakingly laboured self-portraits of the different painters who made them. The slick aesthetic of Pop Art is thereby re-construed in a hand rendered and composite form, producing a tension between order and expression, accuracy and distortion.
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, hundred different people have painted freehand 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. Each dot is painted by a different person, with the instruction to paint freehand a perfect black dot with an eight inch diameter. 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 output being uniform, the posting of the images varied. 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 multicultural generation, a universal blank slate, downloaded and reposted ad infinitum by her millions of more irregular fans.
Jonathan Horowitz: 304.8cm Paintings 27 March to 30 May 2015