Vlatka Horvat, The Oregonian
Upon entering, a viewer first encounters “Excavations,” 2013, a group of small-scale works on paper presented in salon-style clusters. Here, Horvat repeatedly depicts the titular removal: a hole is cut out of black construction paper, a white sheet is perforated with hole-punches, a photo of an actual excavation is collaged onto an image of a gallery floor, and so on.
Throughout, she dispenses with visual peacockery, opting instead for unfussy treatments that repetitively illustrate a single idea. This serves as a kind of prelude for the maze-like installation that dominates the main gallery, as the artist steers a viewer’s attention toward a specific concept in much the same way the installation leads visitors to follow a specific path through the space.
Like “Excavations,” Horvat’s labyrinthine installation, called “And Other Claims,” 2013, isn’t precious about materials. Using reclaimed wood and other found objects, the artist flaunts a quirky, thrifty aesthetic that allows her formal decisions — and the ideas behind them — to ring with directness and clarity. She fashions a series of fences, cordons, and sculptural groupings that effectively carve out a walking path for viewers that echoes the excised bits of paper in “Excavations.”
A ladder balances on a pair of white plastic buckets; weather-beaten scrap lumber is laid atop a blue tarp; and, everywhere, there are coiling swaths of plastic and enormous rings of tubing, which are at once sculptural embellishments and staked boundaries. As viewers hit dead-ends, pens, and narrow exits, the work asserts its influence, daring them to step over a low hurdle and undermine the structure’s imposed flow.
Some may find Horvat’s use of found materials unattractive. To be fair, it’s no stretch to imagine the artist commandeering the forgotten contents of a water-logged tool shed to create “And Other Claims.” But there is such conspicuous deliberation in the deployment of these materials that any aesthetic gripe seems beside the point. For instance, while these materials are commodities harvested from the commercial world, there isn’t a single brand name or logo to be found. This allows their innate properties — color, shape, texture — to overpower their native contexts, from which they have been removed.
In that sense, the artist’s choice of materials — cast-offs and remainders — returns us to the divide between negative and positive space. These discarded objects, which represent a “negative” use value, are recast as positive in Horvat’s sprawling environment.
Vlatka Horvat at Disjecta, Portland, Oregon
Originally published in The Oregonian
At Disjecta, Vlatka Horvat, who splits her time between London and New York City, presents two very different, if complementary, bodies of work that meditate on the boundary between positive and negative space, or, more plainly, what remains and what has been removed.