Art exhibitions naturally make you feel small. As you walk into the gallery you are humbled by the many pieces looming against white walls. You stand back and feel the artwork rush over you, consume you and you shrink, no matter the theme of the space. It is humbling in a different manner when you experience the opposite.
Anglo-American University professor Robert Horvitz pulls you into his work, submerging you in an infinite fluidity that juxtaposes its material size. His collection entitled, ‘Drawings Long and Small’, on display in Galerie Reunion, is not crass in its initial impression. It does not scream at you or aggressively parade its content demanding recognition. The collection is powerfully silent and the risk of surpassing its beauty with disinterest is high, establishing an intimacy endowed to very few. However, the energy it has once you take the time to draw near is not unlike the fascination of looking at an invisible world beneath a microscope. The collection requires attention, something easily dismissed with the size of most of the drawings, but when invested you are unable to peel your eye away from the everlasting sequence that appears confined to such a small space.
The drawings are entirely in black and white and require only two materials: white paper and black ink. Every creation is generated with an identical pen stroke: “I place the point on the paper and flick it,” Horvitz says, a technique that developed between 1968 and 1970 and he has remained loyal to for 50 years so that it has become a thoughtless extension of his hand.
“The first stroke, the first step into it, is always a sharp sensation: an eruption in the continuum, demanding repair. But once underway, I can only lose ground. Time passes. Choices are made. Tendencies compound themselves. Regions develop with unique local characteristics. Some are quite stable and expand into large areas, others dissipate quickly.”
Since the strokes are identical, he describes the paper as the material in motion: “a repetitive ground, finite and unstructured.” Each drawing unfolds in the moment, never using preliminary sketches to plan that would subsequently destroy the notion of free choice; thus, each piece has an assortment of futures with equal authenticity. “A fully constrained drawing, where the outcome is determined in advance, would not be worth executing,” Horvitz says.
On display Horvitz has a drawing entitled “Always Now”, which spans the length of a wall but extends in height no more than 8cm. It appears almost as a crack in the wall that is teeming with life upon inspection: a scratch beneath the visible surface. The drawing, which took six months to complete, is perhaps the most compelling piece on display as it morphs in waves across the space. It was important to Horvitz to take the time needed to ensure each section remained the main subject so as never to fall into the trap of creating only background noise, and so producing the dilemma of time occurring only in the now yet still possessing a past and future. The drawing is true to its artist’s intentions as each segment is distinctive— a fascinating experience to witness as they all originate from the same mark.
The rest of the collection is equally as impressive despite its size, the smallest only consuming a few centimetres as appears in his piece, “Small Bits of Matter Distributed in Space.” It initiates a cosmic experience as each particle, in its miniscule detail, appears in motion and sobers the viewer in its apparent possession of the laws of the universe.
There are several larger drawings whose compilation manifests on paper fashioned in circular form, a choice that encompasses the undying sequence of patterns and the eternity of the style while also abstaining from stealing the attention from the ink itself.
Horvitz admitted that he rarely sells his art or produces for commission, but choses only to gift a person with one of his drawings if the piece itself, upon completion, has a quality pertinent to them in particular. This decision maintains the dynamism in his drawings as their aesthetic appearance, desirable to any interior decorator, could banish them to a wall as merely an accessory glanced at and sucked dry of its meaning. He adds that the drawings are not intended to elicit any particular emotion or portray any specific idea because their purpose lies in his satisfaction during the process. This stance is refreshing as no intention is shoved down your throat in the obnoxious manner that often accompanies artwork.
Despite the freedom gifted to the viewer, the collection does possess a quality likened to the building blocks of the universe. It is celestial, biological, chemical and physical. Each piece appears plucked from the depths of everyday that are invisible to the human eye. It is a compilation that must be experienced in person and with patience.
The collection is on display at Reunion Galerie, Dittrichova 349/13, 120 00 Praha 2, and can be viewed on Tuesday through Saturday between 12-18h. The show ends on 24 November.