The most curious aspect of Kristan Horton’s Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove is the number of times the artist claims to have seen Kubrick’s movie: by his count, over 800. The figure is excessive, to the point that you are tempted to doubt it. I have probably seen the Reese Witherspoon comedy, Legally Blonde, 10 times. That’s an estimate, and it was partly for practical reasons: laziness and a dearth of home entertainment options. In Horton’s case, the number of viewings may suggest fandom shading into fanaticism, or even something less comprehensible than that, but it is also simply in keeping with the conceptual rigor of his project.
A student of the film, Horton has been engaged in an ongoing process of reconstructing it. In each of the works 200 diptychs, a still from the movie is mirrored by its hand fabricated facsimile. For each one, the artist begins by making compositions that break down the volumes of light and shadow in the Kubrick original. Working with objects close to hand in his apartment, the wit of the enterprise comes with his choices of substitutions: a fork for an airplane fuselage, a tight close-up on a scoop of vanilla ice cream for clouds, a plastic bag for the sky. The net effect splits the difference between Horton’s artistic ingenuity and his humbling of the British filmmaker’s cinematic artistry into a mere series of constructions. Pursuing this line of enquiry helps to place Horton’s work within a larger trend that sees artists using the hand-made as a way to puncture the spell of illusionism. Considering that much of contemporary life is undergoing a process of fusion with the virtual world, it is a reassuring development, one that proves art’s relevance as a corrective to tendencies in the wider culture.
By Rosemary Heather