Optical Puzzler: Tim Horjus at Creative Alliance by Cara Ober

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I suspect that Tim Horjus would like to paint directly on the wall. In his solo exhibition in the Creative Alliance’s Main Gallery, Horjus’ geometric abstractions attempt to bridge the gap between painting and sculpture, between space and illusion, but I get the sense that his canvas surfaces have become a barrier. This is probably a lucky thing for his audience, because his paintings are lovely, pulsating with linear constructs in candy-colored hues. I have the perfect spot in my house for one of them, and their square canvas-ness, as opposed to temporary murality, gives me hope that I may one day enjoy one in the privacy of my own home. However, that’s not the issue.

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Horjus finished an MFA at UMCP in 2010, where he subscribed quite naturally to a certain type of straight-forward abstraction, employing taped, razor-perfect edges and creating a tight web of three-dimensional looking planes. Since his thesis, Horjus has broadened his understanding of space to include the walls surrounding his paintings, fashioning diagonal planes out of drywall, which fold out from the gallery wall and continue his paintings’ linear trajectory outside of the painting itself. In former bodies of work, he has painted on these structures with the same colors as the painting to create surprising, trompe l’oeil addendums. However, in the new show at Creative Alliance, these structures have converted to become more ubiquitous, yet less integrated with the paintings.

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In the Creative Alliance’s press release, Horjus says, “I am attempting to evoke the contemporary condition… one of awkwardness. We find our technology and culture increasingly pushing us away from ‘real’ experiences in lieu of digital ones, all the while we continue to utilize our digital devices to have more ‘human’ interactions.” In this body of work, Horjus consistently courts a hard-edged, digital aesthetic, rendering paintings that are sleek and elegant. Although they may be perceived as distant, they are anything but awkward.

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However, he is correct that there is something odd about the 3-D planar constructions that project out from the wall and serve as framing units for his paintings. It’s not their construction – as an accomplished carpenter and builder, Horjus’ craftsmanship is consummate and these shapes appear to project as naturally as they possibly could from the wall. But there’s something bizarre about them nonetheless. What is their purpose and how do they affect the paintings? Most of the canvasses in Horjus’ show are arranged in pairs, sharing mirrored compositions and inverted color schemes, and the framing elements are often placed in between, ostensibly to connect them into one piece. But they don’t. Or do they?


The whiteness of the drywall constructions, which appear to be optical illusions from crisscrossing spotlights or continuations of painted angles, unite but also separate twin canvasses, too. They are an interesting visual problem to solve, but I am not sure the paintings on canvas need the additional noise. Or maybe I am just too conservative to appreciate the awkwardness the artist is cultivating in and around his new body or work. Wistfully, I can’t help but imagine that, if the canvasses were eliminated in favor of painting directly on the wall, Horjus’ geometrical compositions would commune more directly with the oddly shaped surfaces they cover, creating an even more immersive environment.

Either way, in his first major solo exhibition, Tim Horjus should be commended for taking risks with his arithmetically precise and accomplished works. These paintings can’t help but to romanticize digitally produced imagery and space-age technology, but the addition of awkward physical barriers brings a heightened sense of awareness to the imperfections and limitations of modern communication.


The show will be up through Saturday, April 13. For more information, go to The Creative Alliance’s Website.

Photo Credits: Tim Horjus and Lee Tamer

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