Sharon Horvath at Tibor de Nagy Gallery

Sharon Horvath, Map and Land, oil on panel; courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery

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Sharon Horvath’s mixed-media paintings constitute a comically convoluted universe, wherein archeology, topography, astronomy and biology mingle in an endearingly klutzy manner.  This is an art of bits-and-pieces, recalling the remnants of some lost civilization and the sweepings of an artist’s studio.  The forms in Horvath’s paintings are, to put it mildly, ungainly–imagine Miro’s biomorphism after having been deflated.

Cartoonish blobs float, nestle and plop against each other on surfaces that have an offhand, painterly elegance.  These blips contain a variety of pictorial incident, often diagrammatic in nature, making each its own intrinsic cosmos. Even when Horvath clues us in as to their identity, as in the title Heaven and Sea, the bumptious verve of her shapes eludes literal explanation.

Horvath overlaps paint and collage elements without obliterating the evolution of her imagery.  This make for a curious phenomenon:  The more stuff Horvath literally sticks on top of the canvas, the more she discloses–how does one put it?–the painting’s insides.  It’s as if she were filling a hole and digging it simultaneously.  (I’m guessing that Horvath’s use of mylar explains both the density and transparency of her forms.)

Consequently, the relationships between and within shapes gives the work a puzzle-like character.  Each painting is like a portion of some greater story–that is, if “story” is the right word for it–and appears to have been edited from a larger piece.  Yet each image, however parceled, has its own peculiar integrity.  In Horvath’s work, the enigma of the fragment trumps the uniformity of the whole.

It’s not surprising, then, that Horvath’s vision finds it most successful realization in smaller formats.  To be sure there are interesting (and funny) details in the large epic paintings and they do more readily divulge the origins of Horvath’s formal vocabulary.  But they are more a cataloguing of motifs than a world given shape.  A modest scale suits the scrap-like complexity of Horvath’s art.  (A group of miniature works-on-paper have a scope the big works can’t match.)  Still, this is a minor quibble.  In a culture dominated by one-note wonders, the oddball intricacy of Horvath’s paintings comes as a tonic.

(c) 1999 Mario Naves

A version of this article was originally published in the February 1999 issue of New Art Examiner.


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