by Bob Clyatt
Sheer visual pleasure would have been reason enough to visit Patty Horing’s new show Underdressed at Anna Zorina’s delightful new ground floor space on 24th St in Chelsea. But there was much more awaiting viewers there in these large figurative canvases and smaller drawings. Horing brings a novelist’s sensibility to these sensitive contextual portraits, allowing us to enter into a relationship with these fully formed characters: neighbors down the hall with the cat, the woman in your reading group or the happy biracial couple celebrating their new baby. Today’s Edith Wharton, armed with a brush rather than pen, Horing shows us how we live, what we care about, and who we are today with humor and psychological depth.
A decade of embracing Horing’s work has led to the joys of tracing various influences in her work. It is a pleasure to watch her practice mature over time, her New York Academy training prominent in this new body of work. These paintings display the increased confidence of perspective, line and brushwork as well as in this increased foray into nudity. Horing completed her MFA in 2015, but continues working the same vein of largely frontal, full-body portraiture and character study that she’s been pursuing all along.
Horing’s work situates itself in dialogue with prominent artists such as Eric Fischl, David Hockney during the 1960’s Los Angeles period, Alice Neel, and Lucien Freud, among others. Figures in these works confront viewers directly, almost always peering right at us. They are at ease in their homes or personal spaces. Spaces are claimed by these subjects, indicated by the personal touches in each artwork ranging from a jar of Aquaphor on the nightstand, velvet upholstery, embroidery on the bed quilt, or rattan on the floor covering. These details situate the subjects in times and spaces that we recognize. We also feel as though we know the people in Horing’s paintings, or at least we imagine we do – whether the teenager slouched on the sofa with a game controller, tween girls texting, or a couple at the kitchen table, intimate moments feel inclusive to a devoted audience encountering this body of work.
“Betty’s Grandparents” (2018), oil on linen. Copyright, PATTY HORING, Photography: Stan Narten Courtesy Anna Zorina Gallery, New York City.
Since moving from Westchester County to New York, Horing’s treatment of interiors has changed – tall Tribeca windows and loft floors replace the wallpaper patterns and upholstery of suburbia. The figures depicted are also different, but the time is always unmistakably situated within the now. The nudity in this series is also worth delving into, in part since the garments subjects wore in Horing’s previous work often functioned as nuanced identifiers of social cues and status to viewers who have absorbed lots of fashion-industry imagery. Horing encountered many nude models in her years at the New York Academy – a part of that classical training once again gaining currency in art schools, which may account for all this undressing. In this series, people are depicted naked or half-naked, allowing us to contemplate their bodies as the vehicles they get around in: familiar, lumpy or bluish, saggy in places. These subjects are certainly not in any way idealized; yet, still somehow perfect. Their nakedness serves to bring them even closer to us, allowing a lapse into their vulnerability and inviting us to see them as normal people like ourselves.
In the end I think that is reason enough for this work to matter to us. “Simply Connect” may be the best advice we’ll be giving each other in the years ahead. With so many things that divide us, finding simple, wholesome, human ways to reach out to another, to allow ourselves to be touched by another may just become the next great front in the Resistance. Horing’s work can give us a head start.
Underdressed, a solo exhibition of Patty Horing’s works at Anna Zorina gallery, featured at 523 W 24th Street through late February 2019.