Daniel Horowitz’s studio (which he shares with fellow artist Rachel Libeskind) is a beautiful and imaginative space with equal doses of charm and grit. Located in DUMBO, Brooklyn the space has recently undergone a lot of changes. Daniel had previously worked alone in the space for 5 years and after a chance encounter took Rachel on as a studio partner. The energy in the studio is contagious. The environment is warm and welcoming. Daniel’s work is captivating in the sense that you feel like you are in a dream – distortions, twisted and stretched body parts, vibrant colors – channeling the surreal. While immersing one’s self in the work you realize it’s all very real, it invites us to examine our own lives and the conditions we live in and place upon ourselves. Daniel’s work has been shown worldwide. The Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn, Christie’s New York, the Direktorenhaus in Berlin, and the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art have all displayed his diurnal series of 365 drawings. In 2014 Daniel had shows in Paris and Mexico City and was a resident artist at renowned non-profit arts space, Pioneer Works. Daniel was gracious to spend time with RE:DEFINE, walking us through his current body of work, his process, and shared what he has in store for 2015.

1. Tell us about your current body of work, what motifs are you exploring?

Lately I have been more interested in the intersection of chaos/randomness and order/structure. I show up with an intention though I also invite some of the unexpected. 

2. Why is producing at the rate you consume important in your work?

When most of us are employed as full-time consumers in an ever-expanding capitalistic model, artists as creators are arguably busy doing the reverse. I suppose rather than drown in propaganda that is emitted from every taxicab and elevator monitor I strive to produce at a rate close to that with which I consume, in order to some how neutralize the effect. 

3. Can you tell us a bit about 365? What does the project mean to you?

365 was precisely a marathon project, a discipline of one drawing a day for a year, which for the first time effectively pulled me from the passive stance of sitting at my computer all day. This project ultimately generating an entire library of ideas which I continually refer to even a few years on.

4. Your brush stroke characters (the ones that kind of look like slugs) are in a lot of your work, what do they represent? 

The brush stroke character is anthropomorphized and often sits on a sort of psychoanalytical chaise and simultaneously represents the ego and the super ego, though I also think of it as an archetypal brushstroke that at once symbolizes all of painting.

5. What is the reasoning behind a lot of your characters having distorted bodies/heads going into the ground?

I often try to not explain my work since it can be interpreted in a variety of ways. I suppose this sort of deformation is drawn from the given limitations of the physical body. Often my subjects are dreaming, or extracting themselves from a repressive circumstance, hence they become stretched as they yearn to escape.

6. How did the Lost Identity project come to fruition? 

This series as with all my work, began with experimentation. I was painting on glass at the time and was trying to attain a perfectly reflective surface. I began a yearlong period of research into the use of silver nitrate to selectively mirror glass. I became at once fascinated with the beauty of the surface, but also began to ponder the role of the mirror as an object in society, and what it meant to distort the mirror in the way that I was. Essentially creating the appearance that the mirror was melting or dripping. Ultimately, our sense of identity is in flux and is not something static, I believe that the mirrored works in Lost Identity “reflect” a more authentic self.

7. In October you had a solo show/residency in Mexico, Ceremony Interrupted, you made 7 oil paintings on site. What was that experience like?

Overall the experience was incredible. I was given an unprecedented opportunity to devote full-time to painting in a most surreal environment. I had my studio in a Haussmann era prewar building, full of eccentric characters and architectural flourishes. Half of my time was spent researching the cultural tapestry that is Mexico City, and the remainder channeling it into a new body of work.

8. You have had this studio space in DUMBO for the better part of 5 years, how did you and Rachel meet and decide to become studio partners?

Yes, I have had this precious storefront in Vinegar Hill for the better part of 5 years, and its purpose has evolved alongside my personal evolution. I had participated in a residency this past summer at Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation with Residency Unlimited, and a mutual friend had invited Rachel to the closing show. Though we had just met an uncanny familiarity was apparent. I had never really shared my working space with anyone before, though quickly offered that Rachel move in upon my return from Mexico City since she was also looking for a new space to work. 

9. Since becoming studio partners how has your practice evolved? What is the dynamic like as opposed to previous work environment?

We had never imagined how compatible our different approaches were, I think we have a similar worldview and understanding of the roll of art, and we also share similar working materials. Although our work is very different, what I find fascinating is where it converges. We have already begun some collaborative experiments and we have plenty to learn from each other. We both agree that the magic of art is fundamentally in the journey itself. We almost never repeat ourselves and try to learn as much as we can even at the risk of destroying a work.

10. The studio is called the Department of Signs and Symbols, what does that mean to you?

We were looking for a name for the studio that would simultaneously elicit a sense of curiosity in the visitor, but not define or limit what exactly happens inside. The name suggests that we produce objects that are imbued with meaning, but ultimately it is up to whoever walks through the door to determine or recognize what that meaning is. In other words, we salvage signs and symbols from society and repurpose them.

11. What are you most looking forward to in 2015?

I find that my practice is very reactive and is fundamentally informed by the context in which it is produced. I am incredibly excited to be taking part in several residency and exhibition opportunities throughout Europe, including my participation in the Leipzig International Art Programme. 

12. Song(s) that you currently can’t get enough of?

I listen to a great deal of Timber Timbre, it just makes sense some how. 

Follow Daniel on Instagram.

Visit Daniel’s website.