Critics’ Picks

Katy Horan, Seer, 2009, gouache on paper, 15 1/2 x 19 1/2".

Katy Horan, Seer, 2009, gouache on paper, 15 1/2 x 19 1/2".


Katy Horan

Domy Books
913 East Cesar Chavez
March 20–April 22, 2010

Katy Horan’s recent works on paper examine the gesture—arms flailing, or a head cocked to one side, or legs splayed in the air. Yet the figures depicted in “Lady Monsters” remain more oblique than their movements. Though these ladies are dressed in bustles and lace headdresses, to assume that they are polite would be erroneous. One might infer that the figures in pieces like Seer or Handmaidens (all works 2009), swallowed as they are in intricate lace patterns, are Victorian conjurers, Furies from a Greek vase, or other witchy characters. They seethe with a slight mystery and darkness that bring to mind such fairy-tale villainesses as the mirror-gazing queen in Sleeping Beauty or the proprietress stepmother in Hansel and Gretel.

Fairy-tale tropes have appeared throughout contemporary art, notably in the work of Clare Rojas and Amy Cutler. Horan’s approach is distinguished from that of her peers by her interest in materiality. The stippled paper creates a rich counterpoint to the flat gouache illustrations of the laced-up ladies. The tight rendering of the conglomerations of heads, fabric, and limbs offers truncated narratives amid a field of brown paper. It is this contrast in material that mirrors a contrast in subject: the dressed-up proper lady with a hidden agenda.