Critic’s Picks co-selected with Holly Myers, Shana Nys Dambrot, George Melrod
The series of drawings and paintings by Channa Horwitz on display at the Hammer have the meditative vibration and gravitational pull of a sacred mandala. Rainbows of colored lines and graphs in Plaka, or black monochromes in ink on graph paper or Mylar, are rendered with the precision of Paulo Uccello—had the Renaissance artist veered into the universe of non-objective abstraction. Horwitz, who turned 80 this spring, and who was recently singled out in the Los Angeles Times as a reminder that artistic curiosity (and prowess) is not confined to those under 30, has been making intellectually com- plex work before and since receiving her BFA from CalArts in 1972. The artist’s long-standing interest in Sonakinatography, which she first developed as a notation system for representing sound and movement, is seen here in the aptly titled Sonakinatography Composition 16, a work that teases the viewer with hints of unraveling the delicate mystery of other inventions, such as the elaborate Canon I, 2nd Variation. Although the works are exacting, intricate and methodical, they are by no means dry or distant. Horwitz’s colored charts evoke musical scores, capturing an ephemeral moment through her own unique system of notation.
Painter Alex Olson contributes five works to the biennial that reach equally into the archives of AbEx and Minimalism, sparking a lively dia- logue between the two. Olsen received her BA from Harvard and subsequently studied at CalArts, where she received her MFA in 2008; her practice combines additive and subtractive processes—impasto, sgraffito; sgraffito, impasto—suggesting a synthesis of her bicoastal educa- tion with a leaning towards historic influences. In her previous body of work, she explored abstraction with a Twombly-esque edge: a persistent scrawling relief scratched into the surface of her works ranging from a misshapen modernist grid to chaotic scrawling lines overlaid with thick patches of paint. Two of the works seen at the Hammer, Proposal 1 and 3 continue that explosive energy with bright multi-colored graffiti, while the others seem to have found a means of control without any measurable loss of passion. In Proposal 2, a transcendent white-on-sil- very-white creation evoking equal helpings of James Hayward and Mary Corse, revels in pure luminosity. At the end of the lineup, Proposal 5, a curved stripe runs off the upper edge of the canvas, painted in a striking peach-on-charcoal combination, suggesting the infinite expansion of space and possibilities left open to explore.