Harvey Horowitz

By Heather Solomon

The Canadian Jewish News : Arts Scene : June 7, 2007

Exhibit displays results of Photographer's travelling lens

One of Harvey Horowitz's favourite travel destinations became the jewel in the crown of his current photography show. This was not just because of the beauty of Cabo San Lucas, but also because this experienced lensman with an eye for originality made his images unforgettable. Until June 13, you can call 514-286-2476 and make an apointment to see the exhibition at the stately Thomson House, 3650 McTavish Street, which is used by David Astrof to display the artists he represents.

Once there, you'll immediately be drawn to a wall installation of a dozen dry-mounted, unframed images that glow with planes of colour. They look like hard-edge paintings softened by the three-dimensional effects of shadows that deepen and alter the hues. This is an example of the architecture found in the Mexican resort town at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where a desert climate strangely coexists with an endless vista of water. The climate prompts the simplicity of adobe construction, painted in pastels to reflect the unwavering sunlight.

Horowitz does not stand back and snap the buildings in their entirety. Rather, he appends himself to their smooth exteriors, shooting upward and along the yellow, orange, pink and turquoise walls that meet the sky's blue like a paint-box palette. He'll shoot through the open squares of perforated walls to different coloured walls beyond or along outdoor passageways connected by a zipper of coloured stairs. No people are in evidence, which lends a sense of mystery and other-worldliness to these stark shapes. The only living things that punctuate the architecture's clean lines are lone fingers of bright green cacti.

Horowitz then shakes us from the spell of the solitude we've fallen under, by dropping us into a scene that could have been taken from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. A group of pterodactyl-like pelicans swarm toward us in a second installation of 25 panels. These were photographed off the stern of a deep-sea-fishing boat that takes tourists out to hook and release giant marlins. The pelicans follow the boat back to port, hoping to make a meal of the leftover bait.

"I was standing on deck and couldn't believe what I was seeing. I clicked over 100 pictures as they were coming at me," says Horowitz who was further amazed at the human qualities of the giant birds captured in mid-flight. One looks as if it's conducting an orchestra, with its leathery elbows akimbo and feathered fingers in mid-beat.

One other montage was snapped in a Tokyo park. It is made up of sequential photos of a Japanese dance troupe in white and black kimonos and has an immediacy that brings it to life.

Single photographs in the show reveal the artist's sensitivity to pattern (the interlaced leaves at the base of a palm leaf plant, a dead vine's sapless veins still glued to an Oregon wall) and texture (playful close-ups that defy identification until you make the connection).

Two giclées, digital images transferred to canvas, are representative of what Horowitz does not dwell on in his work, but sometimes can't resist: stunning, National Geographic-like panoramas of an Arizona valley and the Canadian Rockies.

What's unbelievable is that Horowitz has never before shown any of his photos publicly. They are the product of years of experimentation, of having his artist's eye suss the unusual from the usual. He began working with a camera in 1956 at the age of eight, documenting the world around him. At 12 years of age, he had his own darkroom. By 13, he had graduated to a single lens reflex camera, and at 16, he discovered the world, able to drive to ski destinations. An African safari when he was 21 got him hooked on exploring further afield through his lens.

Now, Horowitz's work as a management consultant and his wife Cynthia's job as McGill University's director of teaching and learning take the couple on speaking engagements around the globe. The camera goes along, and since 1999 when he went digital, Horowitz has discovered the freedom of not having to limit his shots according to how much film he's packed.

Astrof discovered the artist's prodigious output and talent when Horowtiz approached him for advice on how to take the digital pictures beyond the realm of his own computer screen. The art dealer pored over thousands of images on CD and immediately envisioned a major show that "would stand up against any fine contemporary photographer's." He has given the images a polished, curatorial presentation that excites and incites viewers to see the world around them with new eyes. It's a show not to be missed.