Monday, June 15, 2015

The Child is Always There

“It’s weird how much I look like Iceland.” 
Roni Horn

As a newly minted graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design the American artist Roni Horn visited Iceland for the first time at the age of 19. The island nation on the cusp of the arctic spoke to her and has informed a large amount of her work from photography and books to sculpture and installations.

As she told W Magazine’s Julie Belcove “I had the need to keep going back, it wasn’t a conscious thing—it was more like a yearning. I always think of it as a migration because I prefer to keep my metaphor with the animals, and I had that sense of physiology to it…The cloud cover was always low. You couldn’t really see—you just saw a tease. So I really believe that for a good 10 years or so I was going back to see a little bit more of what I couldn’t see.”

Whilst she has moved on from the glaciers and hot springs it is a concept that continues to inform her work. As she has said “I don’t necessarily think of myself as a visual artist primarily. A lot of my work is really very conceptual, and it has very little visual aspect to it, the sculpture especially. That work is more powerfully about experience and presence than it is about a powerful visual experience.”

As the New York Times’ Roberta Smith wrote about Horn’s 2009 Whitney Museum of American Art’s exhibition Roni Horn a k a Roni Horn. “Ms. Horn has a tendency to appropriate big ideas for her work: Emily Dickinson, Iceland, water, androgyny. The problem is that she doesn’t actually do much with them. In a way her most complex creation is her own persona, as suggested by a recent work titled “a k a.” Lining the walls of a gallery at the Whitney, it consists of 15 pairs of photographs of Ms. Horn. Usually a snapshot of the artist as a beguiling youngster is paired with an image of her in or on the brink of her maturity. Often the angle of the pose and the facial expression seem to match. As you watch her grow up, and her sense of identity and sexuality mutate, the work becomes a poignant reminder of how much change a lifetime can bring, and yet how much the child remains parent to the artist.”

Two Exhibitions of Horn’s drawings which she says are “absolutely essential to me, although not to my viewer. My drawing was always about my relationship to it, not the audience’s,” are currently on show.

Butterfly Doubt has taken over both of Hauser & Wirth’s London galleries and is on show until 25th of July whilst the Vincent van Gogh Foundation in Arles has Butterfly to Oblivion on show until the 20th of September.

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