Channa Horwitz

Channa Horwitz

Fellow: Awarded 2013
Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

Channa Horwitz  is a contemporary artist based in Los Angeles. She received a B.F.A. from CalArts in 1972 and has been making logically derived compositions for the past five decades. Her visually complex, systematic works are generally structured around linear progressions using the number eight.


In 1968, Horwitz (then Channa Davis) submitted a proposal to the seminal Art and Technology Program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The proposed sculpture consisted of eight beams moving vertically out of sculptural bases over ten minutes of time, corresponding to a choreography of colored lights. Although the sculpture was never fabricated, Horwitz’s proposal was included in the 1970 program catalogue, whose cover prominently displayed the faces of the white male artists whose works appeared in the culminating exhibition at the Museum. Art and Technology’s glaring omission of women—specifically the fact that Horwitz was never asked to speak with industry about the possibility of making her sculpture—led to a public outcry in the feminist art community in Los Angeles, involving confrontations and eventual concessions from the curator Maurice Tuchman.

Not long after submitting the Art and Technology proposal, Horwitz continued her interest in representing motion across time. Based on the graphic she created for the proposal to show the timing of the lights and beams in space, she invented a system of composition called Sonakinatography, meaning sound, motion, notation. Sonakinatography plots the activity of eight entities over a period of time using numbers, colors, and the eight-to-the-inch squares of the graph paper they appear on. While visually appealing in their own right as stand-alone drawings, Sonakinatography compositions have also been performed via percussion, dance, spoken word, and accoustic and electronic instruments.

Because of the initial choice of eight-to-the-inch graph paper for Sonakinatography, Horwitz has used the number eight consistently through her work, discovering through her search how her linear logic plays out into new sequences and her growing bodies of work.

Although for the most part publicly ignored throughout her career, Horwitz’s work has been gaining recognition in recent years.   Horwitz has commented that this lack of public involvement has likely given her the freedom to pursue and question the directions in which the structures of her work take her. She is is represented in Los Angeles by Francois Ghebaly Gallery and in Berlin by Aanant & Zoo. She has recent exhibitions at ZKM Karlsruhe and Kunsthalle Dresden (Germany), and Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea (Spain), Galerie Casas Riegner, Bogota, and at the Hammer Museum, (Los Angeles). She has upcoming events across the US and Europe, including 55th Art Biennale (Venice, Italy) in June 2013,  Anton Voyls Fortgang / A Void,  Guy de Cointet/Channa Horwitz/Henri Chopin at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf  in July 2013.

Channa Horwitz’s work is in many corporate and museum collections in the United States and Europe, including the Atlantic Richfield Corporation, The Getty Research Institute, UCLA’s Grunwald Center for Graphic Arts, Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Orange County Museum of Art, Securtiy Pacific National Bank, UC Santa Barbara’s Art Museum, and Volt Industries, all in California; the Hartford Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut; Louisiana State University Museum of Art; the Neuberger Museum at SUNY Purchase; the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art in Logan, Utah; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; CGAC in Santiago de Compostela, Spain; and in Germany in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin,and the Museum Ritter in Waldenbuch.

Artist’s Statement

After leaving school in 1963 I was able to find my own questions.  The desire to find out pictorially what I did not know, still prevails today, and a guiding question that propels my search is, “What would happen if I …?”


The first thing I was interested in was in reducing my choices to the least number so that I could go deeper in my search and discover more.   


I was also fascinated with motion and decided to make a moving sculpture.  I accomplished this by creating a sculpture consisting of a white plexiglass cube with a small electric blower inside, and a clear vinyl ball on top.  The ball would inflate and deflate a bit slower than we breathe. I loved that the content of the sculpture was transparent. These sculptures, called “Breathers,” were done in various sizes.


The act of capturing motion propelled me to do a proposal for the Art and Technology Show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  I proposed doing a room-sized sculpture with eight beams that moved in a vertical direction between a base and a roof with magnets that controlled the motion.  I thought that if industry could control magnetism to that extent then it would be of interest to them, and aesthetically, I would love to see it.  

After completing the drawing, I wondered how the eight beams would look in a given length of time.  I chose to use graph paper to show time, and color to show motion in time. I notated ten minutes of time for the sculpture.  This was so fascinating to me, that for my next body of work, I chose to just notate motion on graph paper.  This is a series called Sonakinatography, which means sound, motion, notation.  


The first four compositions in Sonakinatography were very simple problems in motion.  I chose eight colors that formed a color circle with one step between each of the colors.  In doing this I had created a language that I could use to graph rhythms in time. Initially I did four compositions using a one-inch grid, where the colored squares moved within each inch vertically and sequentially like a silent filmstrip.  


Also in 1969, I contacted a choreographer and an electronic composer to interpret Sonakinatography Composition #3 into their mediums, asking them to use all of the limitations I imposed on myself in creating their own pieces.  The result was my first of several collaborative performances with other artists.


I did a "Poem Opera" in Italy, where I used words instead of colors.  I had one metronome, and eight performers each reading scripts that were 25-feet long, doing a syllabic percussive interpretation of Composition #3.  The performance lasted for forty-five minutes and has been seen around the world.    


The drawings from Sonakinatography led to my next body of work called Levels in Time and Space.  Using graph paper I had four levels in space vertically and eight squares in time horizontally.  Small squares grew sequentially into large cubes in curving sweeps across the drawing.  Some drawings were as long as sixteen feet. 

After completing this series of eight large drawings I wondered if I could reduce everything in one of the drawings down to its essence.  For the work called Slices, I reduced eight entities in time horizontally to eight inches, and four levels in space vertically to one inch each but added four more levels.  I completed the first drawing and then visualized it as if it was the front slice in a loaf of bread.  When I looked at it that way I realized I had eight levels, one step away from each other.  I had conceptually sliced the drawings eight times from front to back giving me the eight drawings.  So, I decided to slice the drawing again, this time eight times top to bottom, and then eight times side to middle.  This gave me three major pieces.

While doing the eight drawings Side to Middle, I made a mistake in counting and ended up with an oddly shaped image.  I realized I could use this error deliberately and sequentially recreated the same drawing eight times altering one aspect of the drawing each time. This became the work called Variation and Inversion on a Rhythm, where I had up to one hundred and twenty drawings working as one piece depicting motion.

For the next body of work I placed one of the basic eight drawings from Variation and Inversion on a Rhythm over the other drawing, repeating with all eight of the drawings creating a very dense structure. These structures resulted in the body of work called the Canon series.  I dissected the structures finding multiple line designs, which resulted in a new body of work.

Structures led to the Moiré series where I realized that all of the work I had been doing was really based on eight angles.  I gave each of the angles numbers and a color then searched out all of the possible combinations.  I did “moirés” on gold leaf, on colored grounds; I did them subliminally and over shapes.  I created moirés in transparent books with Plexiglas covers and transparent pages so that one need not even open the book to see the content. 

This same kind of linear thinking resulted in what I call the Design Series and the Language Series.

The Design Series evolved out of the Canon Series and consists of the eight overlapping shapes deconstructing, one at a time. 

The Language Series is a language I created out of eight rectangular shapes resulting in sixty-four variations.  This has also been most recently expressed as murals and environmental installations with three-dimensional rectangles.

Throughout this time, I have self-published books dealing with movement relevant to each these series. One was a flip book, And Then There Were None, and the others were mainly transparent books that showed the layers of the compositions.


Scroll to Top