Habitat is a weekly series that visits with artists in their workspaces.
This week’s studio: Mika Horibuchi; Ukrainian Village, Chicago. “Do you see a rabbit or a duck?” Mika Horibuchi asked as we looked at a simple drawing that once appeared in a German humor magazine and later found fame after being included by Ludwig Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations as an example of different ways of seeing. It looked like both a rabbit and a duck. “At first, you’re able to see without any sort of pre-judgement,” Horibuchi said. “Then you make a switch cognitively based on the influence of outside information. I’m interested in the cognitive switch that happens in relation to the exterior physical world.”
Her labor-intensive paintings playfully explore these inconsistencies, offering up images that are immaculately rendered but slippery. Even as you recognize something, other readings seem to lurk, just out of sight. A work painted atop a table resembles a chess set and then a bit of weaving, a painting on linen shows fruit in a tree or maybe a playing card or even a die.
Horibuchi originally moved to Chicago from the Bay Area to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has stayed for the artistic community and a number of opportunities that might not be afforded to a young artist in other cities. Economically, she described Chicago as “friendly.” In addition to working as an artist, she also helped found 4th Ward Project Space, an artist-run space in Hyde Park. “It’s a small space that’s based on a foundation of mutual trust with the artists,” she said. “We don’t want to have too much of a curatorial hand in the exhibitions.”
Horibuchi is currently at work on pieces for several shows and projects, including a group exhibition at Loudhailer Gallery in Los Angeles this month, a show with Jordan Nassar at LVL3 Gallery in Chicago in the spring, a group show at Anat Ebgi Gallery in Los Angeles in June, and a solo show at Patron Gallery in Chicago, also in June. Below, a look around Horibuchi’s studio as she prepares work for 2016.
ALL PHOTOS: KATHERINE MCMAHON
"I started using linen about a year ago, it makes much more sense," Horibuchi said. "I've been getting really nerdy recently about materials and the ground I paint on. With linen I paint on the silky, less fibrous side"
"A thrifted decorative bust, now decorating different nooks in the studio. She moves around a lot."
"This is the knickknacks section. I try to keep the space fun but comfortable. Not too clean and sterile but not too much stuff either."
"I recently started mixing my own paints. It gives you more control; there's not much left to do at the last minute as far as decision making goes. For something like this I can only really do one small section at a time which can take hours. It didn’t make sense taking time to match colors. I buy empty tubes at the art store and funnel the oil paint into them. "
"I do a lot of planning, practicing, and experimenting before I start a painting so I get a more precise result. I paint like a printer, section by section in one sweep."
Scans of an ambiguous image of a rabbit or a duck, depending on individual interpretation, of which she had stamps made. Horibuchi uses stamps for reference material to paint from.
A stamp made from the ambiguous image. "A stamp exists to fulfill an image," she said. "In painting just the stamp, the actual image will never be fulfilled because its obvious and practical purpose is to make this standardized mark over and over again. This is one step away from the illustration that it’s supposed to make. Sometimes it feels ridiculous painting this tiny stamp, but I like tedious work."
"I drew like then 'rabbit-ducks' and chose which one was best to send to the stamp-making company."
"This painting of a Tibetan tiger rug, Seated Tiger, initially belonged to a sculptural piece and was stretched over a Bauhaus chair frame. Originally the painting, framed by a chair frame, did not function as a chair and had no use value as a utilitarian object. I have since deconstructed it and it is now conspicuously draped over a chair that I sit in."
A photo of Seated Tiger in its former glory.
A painted fake chess table sculpture and an oil painting called Curtain Drawn, which was inspired by Trompe-l'Oeil Still Life with a Flower Garland and a Curtain, a collaboration by Dutch artists Adriaen van der Spelt and Frans van Mieris from 1658 that is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago. "I extracted the blue satin curtain and painted it much larger," she said.
Horibuchi likes to craft or use her hands for more carefree physical projects in the studio whenever she's worn out by painting. "This is a chair that Dan Rizzo-Orr and I collaborated on," she said. "I had originally used the chrome metal frame for a sculptural painting but after it got damaged, I decided to reverse it back into a functioning piece of furniture."