Risa Horowitz

The playful subject matter of Risa Horowitz’s current exhibition at MKG127, Pacing Time, provides one with an accessible metaphor for understanding the artist and her motivations. In the show a series of eight objects, mostly children’s science toys, are presented as paired photographs in various states of action and inaction. More accurately, after viewing the companion video in which Horowitz’s hand manipulates the toys in front of a stark white backround, one comes to see the objects as representing various more-specific verb states. Magnetic balls for instance are “to compel and be compelled.” A colourful child’s top is pumped with urgent repetition and is “to persist and to rest.”

When talking about her work Horowitz becomes completely animated. With her curly brown hair pulled simply away from her face and her unpainted green eyes sparkling with excitement, it seems natural that this artist would use toys as her muse. I suppose she is childlike in the same way that this statement could be used to describe a scientist. For Horowitz the idea and the explorative process are paramount.

A long-time fan of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, Horowitz had a lay scientist thrill of witnessing Saturn in an observatory last May. The experience thrust the artist into a state of contemplation on the ideas of human insignificance and how to solidify one’s place within the universe. As a firm disbeliever of theories related to fate or destiny, Horowitz began to ruminate on the experience of boredom and the mundane repetitions created by people in their attempts to fill time. A pair of dice carried, tossed, and absentmindedly fondled over a course of several months reinforced her deliberations on predetermination and led her to seek out the remaining 7 objects within the show.

Looking into her vast compendium of past work, Horowitz’s precocious tendencies are in full force in Trio, a piece completed during a residency at the Banff Centre. In it Horowitz films herself during a nine-week process of attempting to learn to play a Franz Schubert trio on piano, cello and violin. The individual films of each instrument are exhibited simultaneously. She notes that her conceptual explorations during this work were a primary catalyst for a shift further away from traditional material-based creative practice.

Though Horowitz admits that she often falls back on the use of photography as a discipline, Michael Klein, the owner of MKG127, pointed out that it was her paintings that originally interested him. Her exhibition, Trees of Canada, features silhouettes of indigenous Canadian trees. Shown at MKG127 in 2008 as Horowitz’s first show at the gallery, the series was inspired by the meticulous drawings of trees that adorn architectural sketches. The paintings were recently installed at the Department of Canadian Heritage in Toronto and will be available for viewing there until this November.

Pacing Time will be at MKG127 until October 9, 2010. Horowitz’s show will be on display during the Canadian Art Foundation’s annual Art Hop this Saturday. Take a look at my previous articles on Rob Croxford and Stewart Jones, two other artists who will be on the Ossington leg of the tour, which I will be leading.

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