Over the past decade, John Houck has been at the forefront of artists experimenting with the visual language of photography, using analog and digital means to build pictures that play with how space is perceived and how images are constructed. His technique of systematic re-photographing produces a complex set of relationships between figure and ground in his work, and defies a clear understanding of the real and created.
For his online exhibition, Houck has created a new group of works continuing his ongoing Accumulators series, begun in 2013. Embracing his background in software engineering, Houck wrote a looping computer program with the sole purpose of continuously generating color combinations; colors which form the basis of these sculptural diptychs. Translating these hues onto paper sheets, Houck begins a process of arranging, creasing and photographing the colored paper multiple times. He refers to this process of re-photographing as the “feedback loop”, a loop that is intermittently disturbed by his intervening folds and creases.
Each print’s numerical title refers back to its unique coloring and coded origins, noting the color combinations used in HTML “hex code” format. It was during the artist’s time at the Whitney Independent Study Program in 2012 that he began integrating his varied background into his photography. Speaking about this breakthrough, John says: “It was the first time in my artistic life where I began to integrate my backgrounds in architecture and computer science. I remember hiding those non-art experiences, keeping them at bay in an attempt to maintain some ideal form of an artist that I had in my head—an overly academic one that only referenced other art. The ISP was different and I was encouraged to turn toward my own experience”.
Houck’s Accumulators exist in a liminal space, whereby the object is defined by our experience and sensory understanding of it, tapping into the subject of memory and how it can distort truths. As Houck describes, “It’s a way to get at the way in which memory is an imaginative act.” Through Houck’s systematic process, the works accumulate not only several layers of shadow and folds, but also several conflicting perspectives. Floated behind glass, each print has a highly tactile quality, enticing us to reach for the surface and determine which of the folds exist in reality and which are simply a documentation of one that exists in the past.