Jessica Silverman is pleased to present “Hands, See Mouth,” the first San Francisco solo show by John Houck. The exhibition’s title comes from a dream in which Houck looks up the word “hands” in an index and it says “see mouth” but, when he looks up “mouth,” it tells him to “see hands.” The experience suggests an endless loop of visual and tactile entwinement and alludes to the synesthesia of perceptions, perspectives and mediums that inform his work.
The exhibition includes work from three of Houck’s series. In “Playing and Reality” (2013 – present), the artist creates layered trompe l’oeil compositions, which feature his own paintings, printed photographs and creased colored paper. Using a process that involves photographing and re-photographing, Houck obscures the viewer’s certainty of what is painted and what is photographed, blurring the boundaries between documentary and illusionary space. He uses a soft color palette, comprised mostly of mixed shades rather than primary hues. And his paintings, which are rarely shown on their own, refer to varied art historical styles, including impressionism, constructivism, minimalism, op art and conceptualism.
Surreal elements are also at play in his “Coordinate Systems” series (2016 – present) in which photographic prints of plaster casts of the artist’s hand are overlaid with grids painted in flashe vinyl paint. The works explore the tension between the organic and the mathematical, digital technology and the literal digits of the human hand. The final images involve great sleight of hand, collapsing the space of the painted and the photographic, suggesting the malleable nature of memory and imagination.
Finally, diptychs from Houck’s “Accumulators” series (2013 – present) act as calmer counterpoints to the complex layers and shifting perspectives of the other two bodies of works. These sculptural diptychs are made through a process of creasing and photographing sheets of colored paper multiple times. The images are printed, folded again and re-photographed, accumulating layers of creases and shadow. With titles such as Accumulator #14, 3 Colors #1E9AC0, #8DC2D5, #AC5754, which notes the color combinations within the work in HTML “hex code,” Houck makes a nod to his training as a software engineer.
“Hands, See Mouth” bears witness to the poetry of Houck’s voracious photographic practice, whose ambitious combination of magical realism and abstraction appeals to both our sensory and cerebral selves.