Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present Optical Affairs, an exhibition by Paris-based painter Antwan Horfee. An exuberant polyvalence characterizes Horfee’s work: disparate media, techniques, and compositional registers charge these works with a riotous immediacy. Our second solo exhibition with the artist, Optical Affairs features new paintings, drawings, and an immersive video installation, a multimedia array that explores the complexities of visuality and illusion.
Horfee’s compositions — executed in a range of materials including acrylic, spray paint, and markers —warp the tenets of realist perspective, complicating divisions between emotive abstraction and mimetic objectivity. Gauzy landscapes, portraits, and other scenes, often sourced from popular media or 90s computer graphics, form bleary atmospheres that undergird a surface layer of punchy, extemporaneous gestures. In Swimshorts rebel scenario (all works 2023), Horfee accents a hazy, black-and-white still from behind-the-scenes footage of the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now with a foreground of eccentric, frenzied acrylic markings. These emphatic, personal gestures replicate the creative intimacy of the background scene—the filmmaker speaking with one of his actors—therefore deconstructing the process by which fictional films may be rendered real. Horfee’s source imagery and his painterly additions unveil realism’s optical tricks, utilizing compositional techniques to demonstrate how our eyes both form and alter what we perceive.
The hallucinogenic effect of Optical Affairs is rooted in the psychedelia of perception and cognition itself. In each work, Horfee illustrates his own mental process of digesting and transforming source imagery. The resulting visual language cultivates a dynamic relationship between artist and viewer. Highly distorted shapes rack into focus the longer one looks; in Program Box Syndrom, an eye peers through the abstract, colorful underlayer. The monstrous form morphs between lizard, vulture, and mask, with Horfee’s surface markings alternately evoking bodily outlines and fungal profusions. These moments of pareidolia abound within Horfee’s whirling compositional fields, with fauna, flora, animals, and other quasi-figures evanescent within each multifaceted work.
The exhibition’s title, Optical Affairs, refers to the work’s concern with experiments in perception, a focus informed by Horfee’s research on visual and ocular distortions. Initially inspired by the psychedelic experiments of 1960s and ‘70s, performed by subcultural psychonauts and in government-funded programs alike, Horfee probed how both psychoactive substances and intense emotions such as fear, dread, and sublimity can influence experiences of the external world. These optical shifts play out across the artist’s compositions, materializing the emotional states shaped by the flotsam of memory and feeling within us.
Horfee’s two-dimensional explorations of visual ephemera are accented by his work with more contemporary technologies like computer interfaces and three-dimensional simulated realities, thus expanding our notion of what the act of painting might refer to. In Platypus, for instance, the artist uses analog and digital techniques to manipulate shape and movement in time. Within Optical Affairs, the video streams from within a cavern-like laboratory built specially for the exhibition, a structure that evokes both the illusory shadow world of Plato’s cave and the decrepit laboratory in Dario Argento’s Inferno (1980). Here, Horfee’s practice becomes a kind of experiment, where the artist, like a scientist, concocts unique admixtures of materials and ideas. The expressive aesthetics of Dario Argento’s Inferno (1980) and other Italian pulp films of the era saturate the work; in Optical Affairs, Horfee uses color, form, and optical distortions to meditate on the more ineffable registers of perception.
Antwan Horfee (b. 1983 in Paris, FR; lives and works in Paris, FR) studied Beaux-Arts de Paris. Horfee has presented solo exhibitions with Ruttkowski;68 in Paris; PLUS-ONE Gallery, Antwerp; and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. His works have also been included in group exhibitions at the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, Lyon; Galerie Derouillon, Paris; and the Michael Horbach Foundation, Cologne.