Anna Horvath: precarious dazzle
On ViewProduce Model
September 12 – November 21, 2020
Like noticing nice light or composition on a walk through your neighborhood, the initial impression of Anna Horvath’s sculpture is at once serendipitous and matter-of-fact. Her work feels incredibly immediate; minimal, but not precious—partly because of its decidedly rudimentary construction. Crowded together in the back of her show precarious dazzle is an array of small wood fins in lucent washes varying from ecru to midnight blue, resting and rising on fragile (but not dainty) glued scaffolds. Crouching down, a pale lemon piece clarifies at center: you suddenly realize Assembly (2020) is not trying to direct or control the space around it. It’s just in it.
Since completing her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1981, Horvath has appeared in group shows around Chicago but spent much of her career as a crisis counselor and art therapist; her first solo presentation was in 2017 at a local dance studio. So given the space to hang work from the ceiling, scramble sight lines and even hide a sculpture at Produce Model, Horvath alights on something of a revelation. Certain sculptures in precarious dazzle recall the forms of household tools from a Hungarian childhood in the countryside—rug beaters, drying racks, pitchers—but even knowing those references, the work remains evocative, and is never reduced to abstracted illustration.
Hardly a handspan in width, Bloom (2019) is a pillowy grid of galvanized steel that looks like a cartoon cloud attached to a stick. Propped in a corner under the shadow of a staircase, it glints conspicuously and registers all passing movement. But that’s only if you notice; Bloom does not announce itself because Horvath’s minimalism does not seem to care to cultivate a sense of gravity or awe. Though materials present themselves plainly, her aim does not seem to be a detached rumination on utilitarian purity as in, let’s say, Walter De Maria’s The Broken Kilometer (1979). Rather, Horvath’s homespun assembly conveys an earnest credulity. Everything is in the touch, as in Moira Dryer’s loopy patterns and stippled fringes on subtly sculptural supports—unabashedly saturated and lifting off the wall.
Departures (2020) is an open sculpture constructed of seven dowels strung and stacked like a ladder. Each hangs onto the next by looped and twisted wire and little pieces of painted wood roughly the size of piano keys dangle at each level. No two are exactly aligned; several of the pieces are milky white, one is periwinkle, and another is a sun-bleached highlighter yellow—all together, the cascading rhythm is like a snagged weft or a Plinko board. Departures is toylike but too rough to be alluring—if you look long enough, what little structure there is starts to dissolve; the wire trembles like a line drawn in air and the keys appear like broken shingles or leftovers on a rack, as if the better parts had already been salvaged.
Across the way is Bell (2017), three sculptamold buoys that hang askew along a metal rod. Shaped like a circle’s imperfect fractions, the gourds bring to mind the expanding and contracting arcs of time between a clock’s hands. Perched on a pedestal nearby is flyer (2020), a little, lopsided vessel with protruding ridges for wings that seems eager to join the lineup. Crumbled sculptamold sits inside the sculpture’s atria-like vents, and looking at it reminds me of the slightly unbelievable fact that birds have hollow bones. Observational and restrained, Horvath’s sculptures seem to marvel at the complexity of nature, passing unnoticed while our lives go on. They recall the new poems of Robert Hass, which weave conversations with late friends among nearly extraneous descriptions of cottonwood leaves, a specific branzino dinner, wetlands along the Mediterranean, freeways in Los Angeles—inquisitively retracing his memories as if to expand them. In “The Archaeology of Plenty,” Hass ponders how the universe came to be alongside unfinished chores, sounding out words as if just to hear them together, much like Horvath works, balancing pieces of primary forms like suggestions.
If Flyer guides the meaning of precarious dazzle toward nature, her 54 by 16.5 inches drawing Fox (2019) is the exhibition’s most explicit consideration of it. The three panels of the drawing are spaced and joined by strips of glued paper—seamlessness is not even attempted—giving the drawing a tattered charm. At top, three leaves are pasted like they’ve just fallen on this bed of yellow. The fox of the title has a tail that is too big, and the scissors’ glide is evident in the ever-so-slightly faceted edge of its outline. Though cut paper flattens any detail, it seems the fox’s back legs are flexed in mid-stride while the front are planted, looking back at us as if interrupted. In some sense that fox embodies Horvath’s work in its reflex, readiness, and curious attentiveness, the offhand poise of her forms signaling a casual expertise in how materials will respond. The whole drawing exists in some delayed moment—like the slow spring we just watched pass—and yet suggests an incremental motion, a picking back up, hopefully, like the fall we’re about to see.