In 2005 the LA-based artist Channa Horwitz declared that “if chance plays out long enough it will become structure.” She drew in order to find structure in the chaotic world that surrounded her. Logic lead the way, and she created a system of drafting compositions not knowing what would result on the pag. What came out of it was always an aesthetically pleasing drawing that appeared architectural or mathematical in nature. A new exhibit titled Structures at the Ghebaly Gallery in Los Angeles delves deeper into this process to showcase a series created in order to understand what was beneath it all.

I feel that through chance comes structure, or that if chance plays out long enough it will become structure. That if we cannot see the structure in chance we are too close to see it. The theory behind my work is that through structure comes an apparent chance. If structure plays out long enough it will appear to be chance… The cycle of life as I see it is circular. The beginning and ending are only one step away from each other.

Channa Horwitz

To understand Horwitz we have to understand Sonakinatography, the type of drawing she developed in the 1960s. It stands for “sound” (sona), “motion” (kineto), and “notation” (graphy). Using these three aspects she created drawings that captured movement by plotting color coded notations on graph paper. She wanted to see time visually and find the essence of form. By reducing her choices and working from a structure she thought she would find this. This belief has similarities with the literary movement the Oulipo group, a collection of mostly French writers and mathematicians who wanted to reduce literature to its purest form by constraining their writing techniques. While her works are two-dimensional, she had a fascination with the three-dimensional, along with the integration of physical space with art, music and language. Her drawings have even been used as sheet music for performances.

Channa Horwitz, “8 Part Fugue III” (1981), ink on mylar, 24 x 96 inches (all images courtesy Ghebaly Gallery)

Completed from 1975-85, the Structures series analyzed works that were created previously. The mostly small-scale works seem diminutive against the white walls and concrete floors of the gallery. She trusted her structure, and the works are pleasing to the eye in their geometric construction and dynamism. Horwitz’s goal was to understand the underlying pattern and rhythms of her previously composed works, and the drawings in the series are often presented beside the final works they inspired. By exploring the underlying patterns she showed that everything resolves into a system, and that nothing is truly random.

Channa Horwitz installation view (all images courtesy Ghebaly Gallery)

Horwitz worked mostly outside the gallery system and the art world during her life, and her contributions were not truly recognized until the 21st century. As mentioned previously, her ideas were not created in a vacuum — there are echoes of her work in the Oulip group as well as in the work of Sol Lewitt. Yet, while Lewitt is almost a household name, few know Horwitz.The art world did not accept her in the 1960s and 70s. In fact, she recalled once that an La Times review dismissively called her work “Pretty Notations by Valley Housewife.”  By the time she died in 2013 she had been exhibited in museums internationally, and this exhibit continues the unveiling of her work.

Structures is on view at Ghebaly Gallery, September 15 – October 20, 2018, 2245 E Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90021


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