“Photography is my mother and painting is my father.” So claims John Houck, who, on the evidence of this modest but intriguing exhibition, “Playing and Reality,” is no stranger to the analyst’s couch. He borrows the title of his show from British shrink D.W. Winnicott’s 1971 tome on the significance of social interaction to personal development and happiness, and Houck’s hybrid works present objects and settings as stand-ins for individuals and relationships. Aiming to create a “third entity,” the artist’s deft interweaving of two mediums—painting and photography—never fails to produce an enjoyable formal confusion.
Houck often uses paint to add a hand-wrought dynamism to the photographic image, extending or collapsing its simulation of real space. Bottles, jars and brushes seem to warp in and out of three dimensions: A painted hand grabs the shadow of a bike’s handlebars rather than the real thing as everything is in the process of fading into a trace of itself like an echo of a past conversation. As Houck suggests, “Don’t ask what it means so much as where does it go. Drawn lines are sometimes representations, but they also lead somewhere.”