David Horvitz’s unusually multiversed artistic practice ranges across everything from publishing books and taking photographs, to performance and painting, moving fluidly between analog and digital realms and sometimes not even resulting in physical art objects. His eclectic oeuvre includes a project for which he convinced hundreds of strangers to publish pictures of themselves with their heads in freezers and a recently completed piece that involved intentionally losing things while walking through airport security.
A graduate of UC Riverside and Bard College, Horvitz has taken photographs since elementary school, but it wasn’t until applying for an MFA program that he realized he wasn’t a photographer, per se. While putting together his portfolio, his teacher Uta Barth asked him why he was including all of his “work that was work” and not his other projects — like illicitly printing photos at the shop where he worked and then distributing them for free at LA punk concert venues. “Is that art? I didn’t know that was art,” he replied.
The piece for which he is most well-known, “Public Access,” raised controversy within the Wiki-world while raising questions about what makes something ‘public.’ For the piece, Horvitz traveled up the Pacific Coast taking photographs of himself (often at a distance, or as a silhouette) on publicly accessible beaches and then uploading these images to the beaches’ Wikipedia pages. Wikipedia editors responded by tracking Horvitz, removing his pictures or cropping him out of them. “The reason it’s called ‘Public Access’ is because the images were all photographed on publicly accessible beaches and then they went onto Wikipedia, which is a public commons so there’s a play between the digital commons and the physical commons,” Horvitz explained.
Last week, Horvitz finished up a residency at Art on Air at the Clocktower Gallery, where he germinated seeds collected from the 55 honey locust trees at Zuccotti Park. He’s also published several books recently, one a collection of “Sad, Depressed People,” that consists of illegally-sourced stock images of people tagged as “sad” and “depressed.” “Whatever I’m working on, I always think of this idea where I’m doing something, and then there’s a satellite where I’m doing something else or something else comes out of that and then there’s a satellite to that…there are all these satellites to different artworks because there’s no real center,” he explained.
Currently, Horvitz is deleting his own Wikipedia profile one sentence at a time, tweeting the deleted sentences as they are removed. He’s also looking for a collector to purchase his student debt, and working on a piece that will debut at the Statements section of Art Basel in June.
Horvitz’s work does not allow for organized archiving. He eschews answering direct questions about his practice, offering anecdotes and explanations of past projects instead. He’s the first to admit that he doesn’t know where the line exists — or if there even is one — between his artistic practice and his daily life. It is, perhaps, this lack of distinction between messing around and serious inquiry that makes Horvitz such a confusing, and interesting, artist.
Horvitz can be found strolling the Met on Friday nights.