Headless Horse (2022)
Working at the intersection of painting, performance, sculpture, and video, the Los Angeles–based artist Math Bass – whose work is held by internationally renowned collections including the Hammer Museum’s in Los Angeles and the Yuz Museum’s in Shanghai – is known for their deftly playful manipulation of ambiguities. The artist’s optical illusions and rebuses come in a simplified formal idiom and a bold palette reduced to the primary colors plus green, black, and white. The abstraction that results from the repetition and variation of basic geometric shapes and iconic, almost cartoonish, signifiers produces a visual vocabulary that, given the flatness of the compositions, exerts a powerful graphical appeal. Meanwhile, the application of fine layers of paint to the unprimed canvas yields a lightness and permeability, achieving a distinctive union of precision and delicacy. That quality is evident in Bass’s edition “Headless Horse” (2022), a lithograph on torn deckle-edge paper, for which they reworked the motif of the oil painting of the same title shown in their solo exhibition at the Tanya Leighton Gallery in Berlin in early 2022: A horse without head stands before two red arches of an arcade, a surreal scene with a strong whiff of tragicomedy. A headless chicken will keep on running, but the headless horse seems destined to a different fate – it turns to stone.