One Thing Leads to Another: Akira Horikawa’s 1000Drawing Project

On the last page of the current issue of BOMB magazine, I encountered two strange sketches: one a giant monster with its nails being manicured by an army of cosmeticians, and the other a centaur-actor on a film-set, surrounded by half sheep, half man director and crew.

These bizarre drawings belong to Japanese, New York-based artist Akira Horikawa, and are both part of his series 1000Drawing Project, 2013, which can be found – in its totality – online (go here to see for yourself). On discovering that I could look at the whole work, I went in search of other figures from Classical myth, and found the following:

A couple of Icaruses

Two very different Minotaurs

A Medusa

And a Trojan Horse:

But an interesting thing happened as I was working my way through Horikawa’s 1000 drawings, which I believe is telling for the limitations of any direct and targeted focus on how Classical references operate in Contemporary Art, or in any form of Classical Reception. As soon as I discovered a Classical figure, before I could look for the next one, I would get distracted by other figures on account of some kind of relation, both in the immediate vicinity within the sequence of the 1000 drawings and in the way familiar characters returned in different guises. An example of the former is the way that the Medusa (#805) above is immediately followed by two female figures (#806, #807), where the artist creates a marked attention to their hair :

An example of the latter, is in the way on of the characters I identified as an Icarus, reappears as part of the building of a structure (a pyramid?) which never (as far as I can tell) gets realized.

These two distractions from my quest to find Classical references in Horikawa’s project are precisely what I find exciting and energizing about the dynamic between Classics and Contemporary Art. While my way in to an artist’s work may be through my role as a Classicist, I have no idea where that artist’s work will take me!

For more on Horikawa’s work, go here.

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