Roni Horn: Fluid like Water

Water Double, v. 3 (2013-15)
Solid cast glass with as-cast surfaces with oculus
Height: 132.1 cm / 52 in.
Diameter: 134 - 142 cm / 53 - 56 in. (tapered) each, two parts
Image courtesy: Hauser & Wirth

For many decades, Roni Horn has worked with the polysemic nature of "identity."   Using different mediums such as sculpture, installation, and drawing, the artist emphasizes that the definition of identity is largely circumstantial and changeable depending on perception and interpretation.  From now until July 29th, Hauser & Wirth in New York is showing her sculptures and works on paper.  

Water Double, v.1.(2013-15)
Solid cast glass with as-cast surfaces, with oculus
Height: 132.1 cm / 52 in
Diameter: 134 - 142 cm / 53 - 56 in (tapered) each, two parts
Image courtesy: Hauser & Wirth

Water Double, v.1 and Water Double v.3 are two of the largest works Horn has ever produced.  They consist of cylindrical structures filled up to the brims with what appears to be fresh water.  In fact, both the "container" and the "water" are made of cast glass, however, so visually convincing that upon close inspection one spontaneously expect to see movement on the water's surface.  

Water Double coincides with Horn's interest in the quality of how one thing can take on different appearances in different situations.  In 1999 and 2000, Horn made Still Water (The River Thames, for example), a series of photographs capturing the River Thames at different times of the day.  As Horn told in an interview: "[E]very photograph is widely different even though you could be photographing the same thing from one minute to the next."  As the theme of water returns in Water Double, rather than recording the movement of water, the work relies on the movement of the viewer.  They are two almost identical cylindrical structures, and the space left in between is also a part of the experience.  To activate the piece, it depends on the viewers' movement and relationship evolved in time and space.  

Th Rose Prblm (2015-16)
Pen and ink, watercolor, gum arabic, 48 parts
Various sizes ca. 66 x 48.3 cm / 26 x 19 in each
Image courtesy: Hauser & Wirth

The Dog's Chorus
Let Slip a Dead Certainty, 2016
Watercolor, pen and ink, gum arabic on watercolor paper, tape
Left drawing: 78.4 x 60 x 4.1 cm / 30 7/8 x 23 5/8 x 1 5/8 in
Center drawing: 84.1 x 78.4 x 4.1 cm / 33 1/8 x 21 7/8 x 1 5/8 in
Right drawing: 75.9 x 55.6 x 4.1 cm / 29 7/8 x 21 7/8 x 1 5/8 in (framed)
Image courtesy: Hauser & Wirth

This exhibition also presents two series of drawings, Th Rose Problm (2015-2016) and The Dog's Chorus (2016).  They aim to investigate meaning and identity, and are done in the same technique.  Working with the surface of an original drawing, Horn spliced up the written phrases and reassembled the pieces together to form a different meaning.   For Th Rose Problm, using a Stanley knife, Horn cut up the familiar phrases of "Rose is a rose is a rose" or "a rose is a rose is a rose," with "come up smelling like roses" or "coming up smelling like a rose" then re-organized them.  As the result, these phrases go from making sense to making non-sense.  On the intention, Horn says: "I was interested in the idea of rearranging these phrases into all the possible outcomes. I see it as a metaphor for identity.  There are forty-eight drawings and I'm thinking of it as one work.  So cumulatively the shades of meaning obtain a complexity and range that stand in for the mutable, changeable nature of identity."  

The Selected Gifts, 1974-2015 (2015-16)
Ink jet prints on Hahnemuehle, 67 parts
33 x 33 cm / 13 x13 in (18 images); 33 x 35.5 cm / 13 x 14 in (3 images)
33 x 40.6 cm / 13 x 16 in (13 images); 33 x 45.7 cm / 13 x 18 in (9images)
33 x 48.2 cm / 13 x 19 in (6 images)
Image courtesy: Hauser & Wirth

For Selected Gifts, 1974-2015 (2015-16), the artist photographed the presents she received from various givers.  These images capture the physical aspects of each object without additional background and context.  From looking at these prints, one can see that Horn aims to show how each object reflects the giver's perception of the artist.  The work is lighthearted yet befuddling.  

Roni Horn's current exhibition at Hauser & Wirth is an excellent opportunity to see how the artist investigate the issue of identity through different mediums.  As they each contain a unique vocabulary that contributes to this conversation highlighting the fluidity of the definition and translation of identity.  


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