TIBOR DE NAGY GALLERY | SEPTEMBER 6 - OCTOBER 6, 2001
After a summer full of flashy group shows, Sharon Horvath’s Recent Paintings is a quiet shift towards a more subtle and contemplative exploration of idea with a coherent formal vocabulary. Horvath draws inspiration from everything from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities to tantric diagrams of energy and color, but ultimately the work is about the artist’s own visual language. Horvath does not display her inspirations visually; she uses them as a tool with which to think about where to move next. The body of paintings in this show builds upon motifs familiar from her earlier work by combining and recombining them into fresh new imagery.
Continuing her careful attention to line and fascination with the iconography of maps, Horvath infuses her paintings with emotional colors and a sense of movement. Compared to her earlier work, these paintings appear to depict a more urban, or at least a more modern, landscape. For a New Yorker, a tangle of moving brightly colored lines in one small paintings evokes a subway map. In fact, the painting is built around three intersecting lines that meet to form the cross-section of a chain, a simple shape Horvath uses in several other paintings in order to create and define the space of the canvas. There is no determined perspective here: a chair fills the canvas, but it is only the top layer of a web of lines and forms that define the city that holds it up to the surface.
The places Horvath maps out in her new paintings are much more intimate than her previous work. One large painting appears to contain a park and a small stretch of coastline, an interesting switch from small paintings that held entire islands. In “Green Chair,” for example, the space of the painting is divided by three intersecting stripes of earthy, soothing green that converge to form the right angles of a chair in profile. The artist is “furnishing” the places in her paintings, offering us places to sit down in the landscape.
Almost all of the canvases are completely covered in paint, worked thickly in some areas, which give the paintings a completely different texture from the artist’s more spare and natural earlier work. One small vertical painting is filled with horizontal stripes of color in bright oranges and pinks. The thick bands of paint become layers in an archeological dig, revealed in a cross-section of earth. But this is both physical and emotional terrain: the energy of the colors and layers of paint move the eye down through the canvas, searching for the source of ecstasy.
Horvath seems to collage her multitude of lines and shapes into paintings. The individual elements remain within the finished work, not allowing the viewer to rearrange them at all. The disorientation and reorientation process makes the viewer stop and contemplate what is depicted. While the infinite number of different elements and the variation among the works can be dizzying (and not all depict places I would choose to visit), the confusion inherent in this process is ultimately rewarding because the paintings offer a beautiful, colorful chaos.