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Idiocy Inc. 

Jon Brumit and Marc Horowitz have made it their business to be the best-known art idiots in San Francisco.

So ... y'wanna ride a Big Wheel down Lombard?

Wednesday, Aug 7 2002

Page 3 of 5

The trash theme has served him well. An exhibition of musical instruments he constructed from found objects is on display in one of the highly visible windows at Berkeley's Amoeba Music, and will be up for at least six more months. (This has not been well received by the people who hang out outside the window; they recently cut the wires to the window's speakers, which were playing music from the instruments.)

Continuing the strange-music theme: A recent organ show at Oakland's Door.7.Gallery featured Brumit -- wearing his drum helmet -- providing the percussion for an organ ensemble by taking tennis balls in the face from a serving machine.

"People were on the floor," recalls the gallery's owner, Ivan Blackshear.

There's no doubt that watching someone get hit in the face is funny, but is it art?

"I think there's a serious side to his work," says Blackshear. "Think hard about the Big Wheel race. Life really is a hard ride down a steep slope."

Blackshear's not the only one who sees merit in Brumit's art. Later this month Brumit starts a much-coveted residency at San Francisco's dump, an appointment artists seek because it gives them access to tons of raw materials they'd never get elsewhere. The residency comes with a guaranteed show at the end. It also pays $1,600 per month, which isn't a bad rate for going through trash.

Brumit first expressed an interest in the residency last summer. While attending an event at the dump's on-site studio, he met Horowitz, 26, then a San Francisco Art Institute student who had been doing an unpaid residency there. Eventually, the two became close collaborators.

"We couldn't stop hanging out. ... I'd just come out of business school and decided the degree was pretty worthless," Horowitz says. "I figured this would be my school."

Marc Horowitz has a business degree from Indiana University.

Recently, he's been weighing the benefits and downsides of living in a bread van.

Not long ago he was seen -- with Brumit -- drinking a "Smoothie for the Afterlife" that contained yogurt, suntan lotion, rotting bananas, canned tuna, hand lotion, Tabasco, hot cocoa, and aspirin in front of 200 people at the "death" portion of San Francisco's DadaFest.

And his mother is thrilled.

"Jon is a great influence for Marc," says Karen Meyer. "He's like an older brother to Marc. ... [Marc] really needs the support."

Horowitz -- whose trim build and wavy near-mullet make him look a bit like a blond version of the comedian Carrot Top -- didn't grow up with much in the way of role models or stability. Meyer says she's been sober for 15 years, but acknowledges her drinking had its effects on her son -- and that was only the beginning of the troubles. She divorced his late father, Burton Horowitz, when Marc was 7. They were living in Westerville, Ohio, a small college town not far from Columbus, but then wound up moving three times: first to Indiana, then to California, and then Marc moved back to Indiana to live with family friends when Meyer took a teaching job in the Arizona desert.

After remarrying, Marc's father wanted nothing to do with his previous family. "It's a very difficult thing to watch a father reject a son," Meyer says. "There was nothing Marc could do that would get him attention."

Now, of course, he's become quite skilled at attracting it.

After graduating from Indiana, where he remembers being "the only kid in the business school with my nose and tongue pierced," Horowitz went through what his mother describes as a breakdown. He had realized there was little he could do with his degree that didn't repulse him.

"I went into business because I wanted to make lots of money and support my mother," he says. "But I didn't realize the sacrifices it takes to make that much money. I wasn't willing to work 100-hour weeks for something I didn't care about."

So he did what a lot of young businessmen seeking easy money did at the height of the boom: He took a Silicon Valley tech job. As was par for the period, the company's absurdly generous benefits included paying for all the art books he could read and even some classes at Foothill College, where he studied painting.

Eventually, a Foothill professor, impressed with Horowitz's talent, made some contacts, and Marc received a scholarship to the San Francisco Art Institute, where he also landed a student residency at the dump. At the same time, Horowitz founded Your Local Gallery at a 6,500-foot warehouse on a rough stretch of 18th Street in Oakland. There, he attracted some critical notice for pieces that were dedicated to behavioral quirks.

One exhibition vaguely solicited "notes" from artists: The piece wound up consisting of everything from musical notes drawn on napkins to an entire refrigerator -- complete with magnet-attached notes. Another exhibit was "The One-Minute Show," in which 30 artists were given one minute to display pieces. The show, a pointed spoof on the self-important mingling typically associated with art gallery openings, drew notice in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Oakland Tribune, as well as a few smaller local arts periodicals.

One of the presenters at that show was Brumit, who by that point had already begun collaborating with Horowitz. The title of Brumit's piece, Shining a Bright Light on a Broken Object, was, as the Tribune noted, "pretty explanatory."

The next press notice for Horowitz and Brumit came in the form of a standard announcement in the San Francisco Daily Journal: A business license had been granted for Sliv & Dulet Enterprises.

About The Author

Jeremy Mullman


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