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Channa Horwitz: 'Rules of the Game' Review - Lisson Gallery

15th March - 4th May 2019

FREE Entry


Channa Horwitz’s Rules of the Game, based at the Lisson Gallery, offers a dynamic exploration of line, shape and pattern. Born in Los Angeles, Horwitz was renowned for her work in conceptual art and West Coast minimalism – specifically, her mathematically constructed compositions which played with numbers one to eight. Despite being active for half a century, Horwitz only received endorsement in the later years of her life.

When I arrived at the gallery, I was met with a string of works that intricately fashioned an arrangement of disparate colours and of various constellations. The selected works come together as part of Horwitz’s series, Sonakinatography, describing a synthesis of sound, motion and notation. Each piece is a self-established algorithm, materialising through time and engaging with the philosophical concept of fourth-dimensionality. In a succession of multi-media exhibits, showcasing a variety of styles, Horwitz works in casein, ink and coloured pencils. Many of her pieces play with the concept of space, creating a musicality that undulates as patterns dance across multiple canvases. The rules she applies to each piece are dauntingly accurate, causing sequential shifts as each pattern bourgeons naturally. These patterns, which move incrementally through painstaking precision, create a staccato rhythm moving linearly across a set of invisible coordinates. They overlap, woven by their various configurations and set against a graph. We are able to access Horwitz's methodology and process, mapped by number patterns and annotations.

Untitled (Canon Diamonds), 1981.© Estate of Channa Horwitz

Horwitz relishes the controlled element of life, understanding the way space and time are increasingly traceable to a formula, a code or an algorithm. By experimenting with maths, she constructs her own rules, outlining the possibilities of colour and shape. Several of Horwitz's works are reminiscent of a piano keyboard in the way that they compose a soundtrack of their own, yet tightly adhering to a preconceived structure informed by an inevitably gridded reality.

Horwitz’s exhibition is technologically informed. Even the soundtrack beckons us to lose ourselves in the white expanse of the room as our ears are dominated by a pulsating and unidentifiable white noise. There is a constant impression that the work is a screenshot of a wider computer program – a reminder of the mechanisms that conceive our prefabricated, or pre-coded, worlds. There is a clear resilience in the minute attention to detail in its requiring of utmost patience.

8 Part Fugue II, 1981.© Estate of Channa Horwitz

One of my favourite pieces, Canon 1982, presents us with a kaleidoscopic diamond, where layering and conjoining lines create a sense of movement as the colours burst and travel parallel to one another. Close examination of the piece reveals Horwitz’s own ‘workings out’, as she worked meticulously to construct this pattern. I was also captivated by Four Levels, which seemed to communicate a paradox between highly structured movement and shapes with a multi-layered sense of chaos. This is demonstrated through much of the exhibition, where the constructed and almost digital aesthetic is manufactured by Horowitz’s hand in analogue materials.

Many of her notebooks are arranged, piled up against each other, implicating a sense of layering and continuity. At the end of the exhibition, we are met with an immersive, audio-visual space that overwhelms us with lights and sounds emanating from surrounding speakers so quickly that we are unable to pinpoint their exact source. The fourth-dimensionality, that is suggested by her works, feels as though she is inscribing time in the way where every movement is calculable, able to be transcribed or encoded through a set of rules.

Canon 10, 1983. © Estate of Channa Horwitz

I would highly recommend Horwitz’s Rules of the Game to anyone who enjoys spotting patterns and minimalist visuals, or who is simply interested in experiencing a much more digital and constructed view of reality. Horwitz inscribes technology onto paper, emulating it manually; this is a daunting attempt to foreground the complex patterns that underlie both real and virtual worlds.

Edited by Dimitrina Dyakova, Deputy Digital Editor

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