Writing

in Concert, 2016

  My work stems from observation, from a conscience state of awe and accessibility. I allow objects to touch me, moments to move me, and observations to draw me in. I allow myself to feel, to touch, and to participate in this world of open narratives.
This state of openness has its drawbacks. I feel anxious people’s’ anxiety; I’m pained when others are pained; I am drawn to those who are drawn to me. However, in my artwork, it allows me to see beauty and find narrative in otherwise drab or senseless circumstances. I am a child in my excitement of the world around me, and this is something that I push to preserve.

Much of what we learn can be broken into separate languages: computer code; technical jargon; spoken communication; localized slang. My work establishes a language within its own scope – reiterations of a single idea, or word, reappear and are refined. I articulate ideas twice or more, revealing multiple angles of similar phenomena or concepts. I do this by using a variety of processed and raw wood, and organic and inorganic materials, with a conscience touch.
My sculptures are best experienced in person, as the ideas and senses I’m working with cannot be fully communicated digitally: truthfully, digital representation and documentation of my work almost feels ingenuine to my artistic process and intention.

clean break 2015

 
 

This body of work draws together objects that I love, relics of lovers, and materials that I’ve jealously stashed away over the past ten years. The show consists of two parts: a central piece and satellites. Visitors must contend with the large, dynamic, violent curves of clean break before advancing to the smaller, more decorative, quiet, “pretty” Inclusions. Each work/collection is assembled from many smaller parts in an obvious, manic, heaping fashion. The curves, bends, and layers of wood and acrylic scraps that make up clean break threaten visitors’ eyes, prod at unsuspecting chests, and snag the unwary sneaker. Light plays off the acrylic, obscuring the sculpture’s physical dimensions and painting thick lines across the floor. The piece seems at once to push up and down, bent with the supreme effort of holding the ceiling and floor apart.
Or maybe it is the floor and ceiling that are constricting the sculpture. Like gum joining sneaker and sidewalk, clean break is elastic while simultaneously jagged. Perhaps a better metaphor is the slowly crystallizing sugars of freshly cooling caramel, curling off a spatula, stretched to the point of breaking but somehow hanging on: stuck, sharp, and frozen.
The blocks are born from similar materials, but arrive at a very different place. Here, dynamic twists and whorls lie flat against the wood, enclosed by invisible geometric barriers. Wain-wood, the wood’s outermost “live” layer and uncut-epoxywork create dimples, hollows, and occasional yawning rifts, marring the most-otherwise silk-smooth faces. Enclosed within these colorful lakes lie their hearts–shredded love poems, written mostly in vain, never delivered, rarely reciprocated, and eternally angsty and unfulfilled. Beside these poems curl letters of rejection from prestigious MFA programs, shredded remnants of undergrad artwork, and crumpled fold-outs from porn magazines. Shredding these these personal documents and embedding them in new work allowed me closure, and sense of (if I may) poetic justice.
I have long struggled with the question of how to allow my audience to touch my work. I am wary of signs and vehemently against pleading (Please touch!), cajoling (ARTWORK IS MEANT TO BE TOUCHED), or otherwise actively requesting participation (If you would be so inclined as to touch my blocks).
I have chosen, for the first time, to display signage advertising this intention: “Please ensure hands are clean before handling artwork” I hope that this message is just passive enough to blend in with exit signs and other institutional wall-writing, but open enough to give courage to those who may have not already had the impulse to finger the sculptures. Perhaps, eventually it will not be so difficult to overcome the barrier between audience and artwork, but in today’s world of white walls, museum guards, and prim manners, it will take more than scribbled love poems and bent plexiglass to break it.

 

 

Autumn 2014

 

 

My environments and sculptures share vocabulary and often floor space in an open symbiotic relationship. Viewers relate more intimately to sculptures encountered within environments, where singular works act as anchor or focal points, allowing viewers mental space in which to experience the physical. The work leads viewers through space with material suggestions. It physically engages the audience, activating their role as a part of the environment. Participants bend under, brush against, and pass by the work, all to better see, understand, and feel their surroundings, in and out of the gallery.


Much of my work combines natural materials with construction salvage and building supplies. This carries directly from my work as a carpenter and landscaper: I notice natural phenomenon that may be otherwise overlooked in this age of hand-brain wonder-killers (aka cell phones). Examining and interrupting the inherent narrative found in many of these artifacts, I refine, replicate, or edit them to emphasize physical aspects and isolated moments from their histories. Working into these abnormalities focuses my practice, and keeps me living in the present.
 

 
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The Meat of the Matter

Winter 2013

 

 

Visual Art, like English, is taught and understood through accepted vocabulary, practiced syntax, and learned slang. Repeating a single word often leads to nonsensical sounds, as in tongue-twisters; inverting context gives (and takes) meaning to (and from) limericks. Abstraction through repetition or decontextuation informs my work. The Meat of the Matter explores visual tongue-twisters, material riddles, and the poetry of the world around us.  

 

The Meat of the Matter is a body of work that emphasizes figurative “meat.” Each piece began in the woods; inhabited, pecked, chewed, digested, discarded, wind-fallen, forgotten, and decayed.  Rather than display these objects in their entirety, I’ve bisected, pierced, sawed, stained, carved, bound, and otherwise repurposed and edited each.  I have spotlighted features I found unique, essential, and intrinsic to the enjoyment of each piece. Simplicity trumps subtlety in earnest honesty to materials.

 

The assertion of mechanical methods upon natural materials is nothing new. My process of editing, however, is not an overhand attempt to juxtapose man-made and natural. The Meat of the Matter celebrates and allows us to better understand and appreciate cast-off forms that are at least partly beast-made or trade-byproduct. Each piece exists much as it did in the woods or the scrap yard. Rather than allow these morsels of the eco/urban-system to continue their cycle of growth, sustenance, and decay, I have frozen each mid-process, and present them in the abstract. All too often do we walk by a termite-infested tree, ignore the knocking of a woodpecker, or take simple, time-honored practices for granted. My works encourage viewers to cut down on cyber-infused, overly-efficient-social practices, and take more time for the “meat” of life.

 ________________________________

Saussiche, Summer 2013

Every man looks at his wood pile

with a kind of affection.

-Henry David Thoreau

 

Saussiche, 2013. 6' x 5' x <8"  Hardwood rounds, hand-built frames, dry-cured sausages and hardware.

 

Cafe Carne, Beacon, New York, 8/2013

 

A woodpile has been said to represent a portrait of a woodsman’s prudence, much as the cleanliness of the heel of a painter’s brush represents his patience. Woodpiles have fascinated me ever since my first winter heating with wood. I often look at woodpiles, sitting a year or two outside to season, as temporary lawn decoration. Between the repetition of shapes, the mix of colors and sizes, and the labor of sweat ingrained in each piece, stacking wood brings me deep physical satisfaction.

Cooking, too, brings me much satisfaction. The concept of time in cooking is particularly interesting. There are moments when I feel pressed to dice, toss, and season dishes rapidly. These times are balanced by those instances I find myself waiting in front of the stove, willing a pot of water to boil or watching a sauce slowly cook down.

These two physical processes, both honed by practice, and by trial-and-error experimentation, share more than just hands-on improvisation.  Each has its own vocabulary, its own rules, and its own history and timeframe. Each is a primal skill many have lost touch with in favor of faster, easier means.  Each is a creative and physical outlet that helps alleviate stress, and can bring happiness, but takes time and dedication.

When I began sketching for this piece, I wanted to incorporate Beacon’s centennial celebration.  Fires atop the Fishkill Mountains once served as communication aids between Continental Army soldiers; these beacons subsequently became the city’s namesake. I wanted to somehow touch upon the concept of fire, or smoke.

Saussiche consists of (unsplit) firewood rounds of varying diameters stacked in one of Carne’s windows. Three rectangular wooden frames are incorporated into the stack, and inside each of these frames there hangs a sausage.

The juxtaposition of firewood and caricature in Saussiche celebrates both the city, and the store, that my piece resides in, through two crafts and one-hundred years of practice.

Sam Horowitz

Access Excess, May 12, 2012.  The Art Space, Beacon, NY.

I am for an art that is universally accessible; an art that will simultaneously draw people in as it pushes others away. I am for art in which anyone may find truth, beauty, or significance, regardless of experience or education. In this art, discord may be just as important as harmony, reason as chaos, and fact as fiction. Here, I am more concerned with attention and engagement, rather than appeal.

In Access Excess, I invite my audience to enter (conceptually and physically) spaces I’ve created. Viewers assign their own pre-conceptions to the mediums, which consist predominantly of common, salvaged objects. The familiarity and craft of the work invites a moment of ambiguity, as the viewer must distinguish between function and aesthetics.  This uncertainty draws the viewer into a closer, more comfortable and playful gallery experience.

 More than conveying a moral or meaning, I want my work to evoke a feeling. Be it an illusion of space, a suggestion of movement, or a sense of claustrophobia, belonging, or wonder, the work is there for viewers to interpret, from their own frame of reference, inside the box of the gallery.

 Access Excess is a show that deals with the idea of a screen, or of looking through. The pieces occupy a realm between sculpture and wall-based work.  This gray area is important to me: by blurring the boarders between categories of art, my work avoids easy classification, perhaps distancing itself from what has been, and coming altogether into its own.

___

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 realized in form.

     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?”

     Please join me in March for the closing of the show, and a dialogue between myself, Pedro Cuperman, Teresita Paniagua and perhaps some surprise guests!  More info on that to come.

        Thanks for reading,

                sam

 

Constrain / Contain
On view at the Point of Contact Gallery  JANUARY 27 – March 15th:

One cannot be constrained without a container, and to be contained is, by definition, a source of constraint.  To create Contain / Constrain, I began by collecting trunks, cases and boxes from friends, the side of the road and stores’ recycling bins.  Though most bore a patina of age, use and neglect, their original functions now realized, used up or lived out, I cleaned, fixed, and elevated each piece with the care and respect they may have once commanded. 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.

In today’s age of electronics, extreme-product-sales, “multi-task-enabling” machines and a definitive spot for each said object, we find ourselves constrained by our own innovations. We work, live and play frame by frame: be they mobile or immobile, physical, mental or metaphorical.  The interruption of familiar objects with uncharacteristic contents invites the viewer to reconsider the forms, functions and limitations of these recognizable, re-purposed, residential relics, and pokes fun at our decreasing flexibility, our increasing demands and the collective loss of craft, localized-innovation and repair.

When working on these pieces, I rarely occupy this headspace.  Mine is closer to the nirvana of oneness with my hands, my tools and the environment of my studio/home (dog breaks, stocking the woodstove, snacking).  Yes the cardboard fulfills all the roles I mention above, but my own impatience and lack of funding (rather than intellectual stimulus) perhaps pilots my choices of materials.  Cardboard is free, and I am able to quickly manipulate it to create the designs and patters I find within the lines and corrugation so readily offered.  This spontaneity is important to me – I find the further my work strays from my original intention the more I like about, and gain from, the work.  The process of working for the sake of staying busy (and warm) has an ironic place in my art; I have drawn each piece through the gauntlet intentionally, irrationally or purely by necessity.  Thinking back over my work, and planning new directions strays into theory, but in practice, I work, live, and act in this moment.

Receptacle / Reception / Reciprocate (This Side Up)

Environmental Art involves the creation or manipulation of a large or enclosed space, which effectively surrounds its audience. -Richard Serra

Environmental Art relates to a viewer’s body by occupying the viewer’s sphere.  The artist manipulates this interaction in order to appeal, horrify, or confuse the viewer by intruding on personal space to varying degrees and with varying force.

I attempt to vitalize cardboard boxes so that they appear as some sort of  biological organism spreading across the gallery space. I try to find a balance between the quick, dynamic swoop of the “arms” and the viral creeping of the “feet” and joints. I constructed a system while trying to avoid overly dictated (but still present) paths, framed moments, and “scenic overlooks.” Through the play between micro (boxes) and macro (entity/environment), I hope to juxtapose the human scale and something much bigger.

Cardboard fascinates me.  Each box, its sole purpose to carry something else, has travelled so far to be here.  I am interested in this transport history and in the universal form of cardboard boxes.

I love the skewed geometry and varied dialogue boxes so freely create.  Each is simultaneously a frame, a container, and a brick.  Boxes carry merchandise, stock store shelves, and deliver gifts.  The thrill of opening a box is universal, but when one considers the contents’ origins or distributor (e.g. Cargill, Con-Agra, and Tyson), the mass-produced quality of the enclosed object(s) is elucidated.

As with most of my work, this piece started miles from where it is today.  When I first began, it resembled a frankenstein of two other large-scale cardboard projects, but through placing and editing, I have arrived at something altogether its own. I set two grommets into every box of each “arm,” and joined “feet” with screws.  Using grommets to string boxes on wires allows the “arms” a lot of mobility, and just as an entire spider web vibrates when one strand is plucked, much of this integrated network moves when a viewer pushes a box or hits his or her head.  Grommeting each box forced me to slow down. This process of “value-adding” to the boxes became important to me. Adding something to a product born of the same process became an inside joke.

The removal/recycling of all the cardboard contained in this space posed a big problem for me.  I didn’t want to throw it away, couldn’t keep it, and carting it to the recycling center seemed droll: how could I allow these boxes to become lost in a sea of un-grommeted, un-valuable cardboard boxes?  My employer and friend, Dana Hoey, suggested an alternative: use them in gardens as mulch.

So, for the harvest of 2010, three gardens in the Hudson Valley may expect to turn over soil chanced with the occasional grommet.  This conclusion is perfect for this piece.  Using the boxes, once-biological, once-receptacle, and once held in reception, to reverse and extend their purpose to contain (crops) and abate (weeds), is the ultimate reciprocation.

When I first began this piece, I wanted to use found wood and other wood-born objects in juxtaposition with the cardboard.  To me, the connection is liner: wood becomes lumber, cardboard, paper, ash, and soil. However, I’m happy to have stuck with one material, and perhaps the more organic elements I was looking for will surface when I finish mulching gardens with the residue of this environment.

I couldn’t haven’t done this project without all the help I received.  Thank you to Arthur and Judy, for somehow balancing one another, wearing me out, and helping be get to where I am today.  Without your push and pull, generosity and kindness, this process would have been a lot less fun.  Thank you to Julianne, for being so much more than you had to be.  I could always turn to you if I needed a kind word, but you were never spare with your criticism.

Thank you to Carol, and all the helpful associates at Tiberio’s IGA in Red Hook for allowing me free reign of their cardboard boxes over the years: I have used at least 2,000 boxes from IGA alone in the last two years at Bard.  Thank you to Michael at Red Hook Natural Foods Store, for a last-minute bale bail-out, all the conversations we had and for all the seconds: without them, I would have gone hungry many late nights in the studio.  Thank you to the folks at at Williams Lumber in Rhinebeck for donating, transporting, and fork-lifting the gigantic bale into my exhibition space.

Thank you to Dana Hoey and to Roman Hrab for taking cardboard as mulch in their gardens.  Our three gardens together will allow this piece to live forever.

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Comments (1)

One Response to “Writing”

  1. Jose Sanjines says:

    I’m a friend of Pedro writing a book on intersemiosis… I just finished writing these lines about how artists create their own languages. My previous example was Magritte. … or the “environmental art” of emerging artist Sam Horowitz who takes the vocabulary of recycled material, such as cases and cardboard boxes, and gives it a new syntax. His “Writing” contains its own codes, much as the work of Gordon Mat-ta-Clark who re-conceptualized the spaces in which we live and work—houses, office buildings, factories—by deconstructing them in various ways, sometime by laboriously planning and cutting large openings in the walls of buildings, thus turning over our most familiar enclosures, sometimes just to let the sun shine through again.

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