CONSTRAIN/CONTAIN is the first solo exhibit by New York environmental artist Sam Horowitz.
In today’s virtual era, when we can communicate at light speed, inhabit cyber realities and continually discard the “old” in search for “upgrades,” one might expect that technology innovation makes us less burdened, less constrained by time and space. By the same token, so many of us are living rushed unthinking lives, desensitized and isolated from anything real. We work, live and play inside frames, according to Horowitz, frames that are mobile, immobile, physical, mental, or metaphorical.

In this exhibition, the intrusion of familiar objects with uncharacteristic contents invites the viewer to reconsider the forms, functions and limitations of recognizable, repurposed relics, and pokes fun at our decreasing flexibility, our increasing demands and the collective loss of craft, localized innovation and repair.

“The trunks, once utilitarian objects used to carry clothing and other personal items, are now filled for the sake of filling. The cardboard, created initially to contain other entities, functions as contents. Though each framing device no longer holds the contents they were created to contain, they contain nonetheless; it is the humor and irony of this relationship that I strive to illustrate thorough my work,” Horowitz says.

To create this installation, Horowitz began by collecting trunks, cases and boxes. Though most bore a patina of age, use and neglect, he cleaned, fixed and saved each piece. Horowitz is able to manipulate cardboard to create the designs and patterns he finds within the lines and corrugation so readily offered. “I have drawn each piece through the gauntlet intentionally, irrationally or purely by necessity,” says Horowitz. “Thinking over my work, and planning new directions strays into theory, but in practice, I work, live and act in this moment.”

Refer here for a list of individual works.

Constrain / Contain: Thoughts from the Train


After months of planning and scheming, working in my home studio and troubleshooting all possible scenarios, I arrived in Syracuse last week, met my new family for the week, and began installing my first solo show.  There are always a few catches, as I have learned in my short run at carpentry, but I had brought more than enough tools and surplus materials, so I ended up finalizing my work and finishing the pieces a day ahead of schedule.  It was then that I was able to step back for the first time ever, and see what I had been staring at on graph paper for the last nine months, finally physically realized.

I was excited to see that all my work, through the way it was constructed, a shared vocabulary of materials, and placement in the gallery, carry on a macro scale the same sort of movement I strive to articulate within each piece.  The paint on the walls, the hanging pieces and the weighty wooden piece (which I have been calling “squeeze”) simultaneously pull the eye through the room and anchor, or center it. All the pieces belong, both conceptually and spatially.

What does that say about the work? I had hoped that it would be what Robert Irwin calls “site specific” (being and circumstance, Robert Irwin. Notes on a Confidential Art). However, perhaps my hand is too evident (when my gestures are framed in a gallery with wall-to-wall carpet and a drop-ceiling) to fall into Irwin’s classification. One day, I would like to find a location where I can enter into a dialogue within the confines of the venue, where the architecture carries more weight and my work may just become another feature in space.

But that’s for the future. Having the chance to conceive of a show theoretically and physically on my own, make new friends and contacts in a new city, and substantiate myself as an artist, has been a wonderful experience.   I couldn’t have done it alone. Thank you to all my friends at home who helped me get this show on the road, and who spent time critiquing my ideas and troubleshooting concepts: Alex, Joe, Lisa, Melora and Steffen. Having you all so close to me (and willing to help) is unfathomably valuable and good. A thank you as well to my new Syracuse friends: I’d like to thank Tere for everything: you were simultaneously an event organizer, detail-manager, publicist, cook, chauffer and friend.  Ed, thanks for untying all the knots I managed to get myself into, and teaching me a few new ones to take home.  Thank you to Pedro, whose words helped shape my ideas and works, and helped put my work in context.  I look forward to our dialogue in the coming month.  Thank you, Caroline, for putting up with my antics, helping to put it all together and showing me a Syracuse beyond the stretch between my hotel and the gallery.  Thanks to Sebastian, Sol and Shane for helping me put the finish touches on the show, and for putting your own touch on the windows.  That collaborative process removed the space once more from the idea of the “frame,” and put it all in perspective.  Thank you to all the folks at the vitamin warehouse for all the materials, and to the guys at U-Haul as well. Of course, a big thank you to Ana and Lilliana, for being who you are and putting all this in place. Thank you for your patience, understating and friendship.  And thank you to my parents, for your continued support and love, and for trekking all the way over here for the show.

This is new territory for me. This was the largest audience my work has ever received, and is also the one furthest removed from my personal circle. Criticism and commendation from that far feels much different than pats on the back from friends and family.  Also, though I’m sure next time will be smoother, having the chance to present myself to a class of university students gave me insights on my work and on my practice, lifestyle and my own perception. With all this behind me I can now perhaps stop avoiding the answer to the continually surfacing question: “What do you do?”

Thanks for reading,





Constrain / Contain | 2012 | Archives | Tags: