Playing and Reality

10 Apr 2016 – 22 May 2016

Event times

Wed-Sat 10-6pm
Sun 12-6pm

On Stellar Rays

New York
New York, United States


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On Stellar Rays is pleased to announce the gallery’s second solo exhibition with John Houck, Playing and Reality, opening on Sunday, April 10 from 6 to 8pm. The exhibition also inaugurates the gallery’s newly renovated exhibition space at 213 Bowery, directly below the existing second floor gallery.


Houck’s new body of work follows his History of Graph Paper series, in which objects gifted to the artist by his parents are subjected to a rigorous process of arrangement and photography. Subsequent iterations of re-arrangement and re-photography create spatially layered images that evoke the complexity and malleable nature of memory, and show how objects laden with personal histories can drive the imagination and inspire new narratives.

Playing and Reality presents a similar reflection on the material relics that signify the artist’s other interpersonal relationships. Objects and pictures are surrogates of the specific nuances of the intimate and psychic space shared between two individuals. In psychoanalytic terms, Houck is mirroring the dynamic third entity that exists within any relationship, and considering what form this may take in a photographic image.

Houck further draws a metaphoric parallel between the imagined third entity between two people, and the idea of an interstitial third entity between painting and photography, engaging not only photographic representations, but incorporating painting on and within the photos. These elements do not function to replicate reality, but are rather playful and irreverent jests that skip and meander across pictorial space, intensifying awareness of the flattened picture plane. Such cursory brushwork ruptures the familiar space of the digital image, disputing the expectation of photographic perfection, and heightening the desire to connect with a constructed, physical reality.

Additionally, a number of new photographs in the exhibition, Coordinate Systems, depict the artist’s hand cast in hydrocal, and overlaid with Houck’s signature grids painted in flashe paint on the surface. The grids relate to Houck’s existing Aggregates series, exploring ideas around digital technology and the presence of the artist’s hand.

The exhibition title, Playing and Reality, is also the title of the seminal book written by the British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, which presented innovative theories on the significance of social relations in mental development and emotional well-being, and challenged both Freud’s drive theory, and the popular American mythos of the pioneering individual, Cartesian subject, or Emerson’s Self-Reliant man. Houck’s mining of memory and the imagination—through both psychoanalysis and within his fluid studio practice—attends to the roles of introspection and creative play in feeling fully alive.*

John Houck received his MFA from UCLA (2007), and a BA in Architecture from Colorado University (2000). He participated in the Whitney Independent Study (2010) and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2008) programs.

Recent solo exhibitions took place at Johan Berggren Gallery, Mälmo (2015); On Stellar Rays, New York (2013); Max Wigram, London (2013). Group exhibitions include MoMA, New York (2015); Josh Lilley Gallery, London (2015); Hauser & Wirth, New York (2015); Gagosian, Los Angeles, Athens, Geneva (2015); Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto (2015); The Jewish Museum, New York (2015); LACMA, Los Angeles (2014); Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York (2014); Hauser & Wirth, New York (2014); Eleven Rivington, New York (2014); Max Hetzler Gallery, Paris (2014); Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris (2013); Balice Hertling Gallery, New York (2013); On Stellar Rays, New York (2012); Art in General, New York (2010); The Kitchen, New York (2010); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2007). Houck’s work is in numerous prominent collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Palm Springs Museum of Art.

* “It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”
― D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality


Exhibiting artists

John Houck


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