The Glow of Technology Burns Brightly in Multimedia Work from Rachel Lee Hovnanian

When holding a mirror up to society, it can be tricky business trying to make a point or induce a conversation without being monstrously heavy-handed. Overstatement often leads into the tiresome realm of cloying allegory. New York–based artist Rachel Lee Hovnanian walks that fine line.

Her mixed-media work engages and reflects upon the realities of contemporary life, particularly our dependency on and love–hate obsession with technologies that encourage narcissism and isolation, even as these gizmos and platforms feed our desire for instant gratification and filtered perfection.

Hovnanian’s work, a selection of which can been seen in the Dallas Art Fair booth of Leila Heller Gallery, frequently reflects society’s own image back to itself, often with astonishing accuracy. She captures the temperature of our cultural climate as it reacts to an ever-growing number of technologies. Seeing these realities in such clear relief can be rather unsettling.

While her works tend to take on loaded subjects as their raw material, they are nonetheless infused with dark humor and an underlying sense of playfulness. In Foreplay: Hamilton & Rebecca and Foreplay: James and Emil (both 2014), two couples rest together in bed with their smartphones, each partner independently captivated by the glow of digital information. The devices are their true bedfellows.

The march of technological advance also informs Perfect Baby Showroom (2014), an installation that presents a world where perfect babies are possible. The neon work ILYSFM (2016) addresses the ways technology—the internet, text messaging, social media, et al.—has changed language and the ways we communicate with one another. After all, we can’t escape technology even in our bedrooms and love affairs.


—Grace-Yvette Gemmell


Rachel Lee Hovnanian’s work is on view at the Dallas Art Fair, Apr. 14–17, 2016.

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