New York

George Horner


Silly Putty is George Horner’s signature medium, and in his hands, this common material continues to yield uncommon results. He uses his own Xerox technique to transfer inked text and images onto multicolored, two-dimensional (if lumpy) Silly Putty surfaces. While previously Horner’s montages of appropriated mass-media flotsam lampooned politics and art history, he has now turned his attention to what can best be described as smut—low-level sexual humor. Each of these ten medium-size works (all from 1992) features the kind of “dirty” jokes—cartoons, puns, anecdotes—found on redneck T-shirts, bumper stickers, and in girlie magazines, set off against variously colored putty fields. More than just a critique of media stereotypes, this show also presents a challenge to the savvy gallery-goer who, while striking an épater les bourgeois pose, may still harbor a fear of truly bad taste.

These framed, wall-mounted works explore such familiar smut themes as objectified body parts (in MY DICK’S BIGGER THAN YOURS), and degrading gender stereotypes (in I LOVE CHICKS WITH BIG TITS). Horner has aptly selected jokes that underscore the sadistic component of this kind of humor. I LOVE CHICKS features a cartoon of a woman with her breast in an old-fashioned clothes wringer, with the caption: “Don’t let this happen to you!” In BITCH, BITCH, BITCH, two cartoons picture a dentist painfully ripping out a patient’s tooth as well as his genitals. These jokes characteristically bank on the sexual humiliation of an individual or entire gender, and while both men and women are targeted, the latter are—true to life—more often singled out. Horner utilizes Silly Putty’s visual, tactile, and metaphoric possibilities to put an ironic spin on these already ironic messages, deftly defusing their intended effect.

A subtle parody of Modernist formalism runs through this show, operative in visual puns such as the sign “EAT MORE PUSSY,” which enacts a play of negative and positive space. In another work (BIG CATS), an allover play of colored strands simultaneously evokes pubic hair and the work of Jackson Pollock. Heralding a new low, Horner is the uninvited, white-trash cousin in the extended post-Modernist fold, momentarily revitalizing the sanitized, academic “high-low” debate by rudely calling its bluff.

Jenifer P. Borum