Johnathan Horowitz Tour, Exhibition and New Video at PS1

Last Sunday, I was over at PS1 in the afternoon during a window of recovery in my ailment that serendipitously coincided with a guided tour by the artist Johnathan Horowitz of his own work. The intensity and tough wit of the pieces within the show account for his extemely quiet demeanor and hushed voice. There were even moments in the tour when his personal words were drowned out by his own intensely loud artwork.

Besides the constant struggle to hear the artist, it was of course insightful to gain entry into the works through personal anecdotes and direct explanation from Horowitz. I believe his work is most impactful when supported by exterior sources that can guide a visitor through the exhibition. Especially, given his extensive references to popular culture, to which, I assure you, without the help of an aid would have been blind to. On first visit I had a brochure as a supplement to keep me up to speed with Horowitz’s pieces, and on the second I had none other than the artist himself, without either of which I would have been very lost. I stress this point simply to point out the intensely referential and complex nature of Horowitz’s satirical “communication.”

While I don’t necessarily see this nature of the work as a problem, it is a struggle that I personally have with much of contemporary artwork that I encounter. This is because I feel like I am not on the inside, like I am being left out of the discussion. And a certain degree of ambiguity and difficultly is important within any piece of art, but this approach to making work has gone very far and is a practice that I do not connect with emotionally.

The show is undeniably provacative and extremely political in content and its obvious intention is not to be visually pleasurable but contreversial and inflammatory. I enjoyed his investigation of contradictions within the media and celebrity culture. Yet at moments the exhibition was tinged with a sense of nihilism that was difficult to stomach. I guess then, given my trouble with humorous skepticism of the work, it is inconsistent that my favorite portion of the tour was the new video that Horowitz shared at PS1 to conclude the evening.

Entitled Apocolypto, the piece is a hilarious and brilliant consideration of the American obsession with calamity and its own demise. It mashes clips from Mel Gibson interviews, scenes of destruction from old cinema, horroific moments of The Passion of the Christ, news footage covering natural disasters with a little bit of Al Gore thrown into the mix. Ultimately a portrait of Global Warming and its control of the American imagination, Horowitz utilizes stock footage and recordings to consider the mechanism of Apocalypse in culture.

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