Los Angeles

David Horvitz, Public Access (Bodega Head), 2011–14, C-print, 9 5/8 × 14 5/8". From the series “Public Access,” 2011–14.

David Horvitz, Public Access (Bodega Head), 2011–14, C-print, 9 5/8 × 14 5/8". From the series “Public Access,” 2011–14.

David Horvitz

Blum & Poe | Los Angeles

David Horvitz, Public Access (Bodega Head), 2011–14, C-print, 9 5/8 × 14 5/8". From the series “Public Access,” 2011–14.

On July 12, the day that David Horvitz’s first solo show at Blum & Poe opened, the artist and his numerous editor-avatars were banned from contributing to Wikipedia. The embargo culminated an ongoing conflict in which editors of the online encyclopedia persistently hunted down and deleted any discovered images of California shoreline (from Pelican State Beach in the north to Border Field State Park in the south) that Horvitz had posted to the public beaches’ Wikipedia entries over the past three years. Each of the supposedly disruptive images—part of Horvitz’s multimodal project “Public Access,” 2011–14—depicts the artist looking out over the ocean, his back to the camera. In one image, his head is just visible over the top of a scrubby dune (Public Access [Tolowa Dunes State Park], 2011–14). In another, his body is largely camouflaged by a tree (Public Access [Usal Creek], 2011–14). But in the forty-eight images that were displayed here as framed prints, Horvitz usually appears front and center, a black-haired man in nondescript clothes.

Since Horvitz first began uploading these images to Wikipedia, they have been taken down or cropped (to remove his figure) by the editors, reuploaded by the artist, removed again, and aggressively debated in Wikipedia-administration discussion boards, a process documented by the artist. Manifesting via performative gesture, digital images, the Internet, print publications (there have been at least two, inclusive of screen grabs from Wikipedia discussion forums), and now gallery exhibition, “Public Access” brilliantly illuminates the friction between ideals of public space and the reality: on the one hand, the public-beach access promised all Californians versus the actual intimidation and discouragement of vistors by beachfront homeowners, and, on the other, Wikipedia’s promise of an open-access knowledge commons versus the aggressive policing that often goes on behind the code. Horvitz’s project is compelling for the sophisticated format-specificity of each of its iterations, but here, images long available for free online became archival materials, individually framed and neatly hung on the walls of a commercial gallery. Horvitz’s project doesn’t gain much conceptually or aesthetically from its latest presentation, but this iteration perhaps answers to the material needs of art-world validation, making viable the possibility of the works’ entry into public and private collections.

As with past projects How Can a Digital Be Gift, 2013, and “An Impossible Distance,” 2012, Horvitz’s recent efforts highlight the ways in which immaterial or virtual institutions shape our material world and the way we move through it. If “Public Access”addresses our relationship to space, somewhere in between the jurisdiction of time, 2014, concretizes our relationship to time: In a convoluted series of moves, Horvitz attempted to import a portion of the time-zone line separating Alaska and California into the Los Angeles gallery. Materially, he accomplished this quixotic feat by sailing out to the line (127.5° longitude) due west of Los Angeles and gathering seawater, then exhibiting the liquid in thirty-two lovely handblown glass vessels arranged on the floor along the north-south axis. Conceptually (or rather, administratively), Horvitz executed this transfer by sending a letter to the US Department of Transportation requesting that the area west of the line be changed to Alaska time for the duration of the show.

One saw a row of beach snapshots and a row of glass water bottles, but there was a lot more going on in Horvitz’s projects than was apparent in the galleries. A romantic who earnestly executes absurd tasks, Horvitz recalls Bas Jan Ader or Yves Klein or, better yet, Fluxus artist Robert Filliou, whose notion of permanent creation tied everything the artist did into an ever-unfolding chain of projects well done, badly done, or not done. Horvitz’s exhibition may or may not have included time zone line-jumping and -tasting events, a silent walk-through led by the artist, a cat’s hair ball, and a stamp applied to gallery correspondence during the run of the show that read SOMEWHERE OUTSIDE OF TIME. As for Wikipedia, it may or may not be David Horvitz’s hand that appears in the entry for “middle finger.”

Natilee Harren