John Houck

December 13, 2017 - February 23, 2018

Opening Reception: December 13th, 5-8pm

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.

John Houck

John Houck (b. 1977, South Dakota) has shown extensively in the United States and abroad. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Dallas Contemporary (2017), Boesky West in Aspen (2017), On Stellar Rays in New York (2016) and Johan Berggren Gallery in Malmö, Sweden (2015). He has also participated in group shows at the International Center of Photography, New York (2016), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015), and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2014). His works are in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has an MFA in Fine Arts from UCLA and a BA in Architecture from Colorado University. He also completed the Whitney Independent Study and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture programs. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

John Houck - Bullseyes, 2017
John Houck - Bullseyes, 2017
53 x 42 inches


September 28 - December 1, 2017

Opening Reception: September 28th, 6-8pm

Likeness is an exhibition of busts ­­– aka human heads and upper torsos – which complicate traditional notions of portraiture by acting as palimpsests for various identities. Although the form of the bust is unmistakable, particular likenesses are abstracted, contorted or omitted entirely. The works in this exhibition refer to classical busts or portraits, but are functionally closer to prehistoric modes of figuration, depicting groups or classes as opposed to specific individuals.

Anonymity is an anomaly in an era of selfies, avatars and facial recognition software. Heads and faces are documented, catalogued and broadcast at speed, enhancing our own predisposition to recognize faces, anthropomorphize everyday objects, and express ourselves through emojis. In an increasingly narcissistic culture, it’s refreshing to see busts, an atavistic form, as vehicles for humanistic ideas.

Amy Bessone, Vidya Gastaldon, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Maren Karlson, Lucy Kim, José Lerma, Jean-Luc Moulène, Woody De Othello, Christina Ramberg, Lui Shtini

  • Amy Bessone (b. 1970, New York, NY). Her ceramic torsos of women are charged in their duality, performing as both monuments to the female form and critiques of objectification.
  • Vidya Gastaldon (b. 1974, Besançon, France) paints disembodied busts of divine beings, more Redon than Rodin, their eyes permeating through layers of semi-opaque, ethereal paint.
  • Trenton Doyle Hancock (b. 1974, Oklahoma City, OK). His works ­– ostensibly self-portraits – blend sci-fi, horror, and grotesque caricature into a complex, dreamlike narrative which extends well beyond autobiography.
  • Maren Karlson (b. 1988, Rostock, Germany). Her psychedelic paintings depict realms devoid of men, inhabited entirely by female witches, spirits and ghouls.
  • Lucy Kim (b. 1978, Seoul, Korea) complicates traditional portraiture by creating molds of the physique of different professionals, such as a geneticist and plastic surgeon. Their forms are stretched, warped, and flattened into wall relief, a liminal space between painting and sculpture.
  • José Lerma (b. 1971, Seville, Spain) makes “portraits” of historical bankers and politicians that are completely abstracted into globs of acrylic paint and caulk, serving as anti-monuments to famous capitalists.
  • Jean-Luc Moulène (b. 1955, Reims, France) creates tronches or “heads” resemble crude antiquities but are actually derived from artifacts of pop culture; in this case, a bloated head of comic villain Dr. Doom cast in concrete from a Halloween mask.
  • Woody De Othello (b. 1991, Miami, FL). His ceramics anthropomorphize everyday objects and isolated body parts into strange, humorous character studies.
  • Christina Ramberg (b. 1946, Ft. Campbell, KY). Her historically rich sketchbook drawings depict women’s heads enveloped in tightly wound braids or torsos bound in corsets.
  • Lui Shtini (b. 1978, Kavaje, Albania) makes mysterious paintings that read like classical court portraiture, if Rococo hair had swarmed the sitter’s face and dissolved facial features into geometric chins, collars and coiffure.
Lucy Kim - Plastic Surgeon (Dr. Melissa Doft) #2, 2017
Lucy Kim - Plastic Surgeon (Dr. Melissa Doft) #2, 2017
Oil paint, acrylic paint, Flashe paint, spray enamel, urethane resin, epoxy, fiberglass, powder-coated aluminum 37 x 23 1-2 x 3 inches