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The Whitney to Present Thirty-Year Survey of Work by Roni Horn
Rationalists Would Wear Sombreros, 1990. Ink and graphite on special-edition print from To Place: Bluff Life (New York: Peter Blum Edition, 1990) , 10 x 12 in. (25.4 x 30.5 cm) Collection of the artist © Roni Horn

NEW YORK, NY.- Jointly organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art and Tate Modern, Roni Horn aka Roni Horn, the most comprehensive overview of Roni Horn’s work to date, integrates three decades of the American artist’s sculpture, photography, installations, drawings, and books. Opening on November 6, 2009, the exhibition remains on view through January 24, 2010. Following the Whitney’s presentation, it travels to The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, where it will be seen from February 19 to June 13, 2010.

Included in the exhibition are approximately seventy works, varying in scale from small drawings to room-sized photographic installations to sculptures weighing several tons. The curators, who are working in close collaboration with Horn, are the Whitney’s Chief Curator and Associate Director for Programs Donna De Salvo and curator of drawings Carter E. Foster, and Mark Godfrey, curator at Tate Modern.

As De Salvo, Foster, and Godfrey write in their introduction to the exhibition catalogue, “One of the most compelling reasons to look back now at Horn’s work is to see how she has consistently addressed ideas about subjectivity and multiplicity while giving profound attention to materials and creating works of great beauty. There is an unwavering intensity in Horn’s ability to reconcile materials with personal experience. In a time of isolation and fragmentation, Horn’s singular and unrelenting focus on an object or an image demands much from viewers, but her work equally offers ample rewards to those willing to take the time to become a part of it.”

For more than thirty years, Horn has been developing work of concentrated visual power and intellectual rigor, often exploring issues of gender, identity, androgyny, and the complex relationship between object and subject. Because the artist chooses not to privilege any one medium, Horn’s art defies easy categorization. Materials – often used with remarkable virtuosity and sensitivity – take on metaphorical qualities and relate key themes with great visual power. Horn’s interest in doubling and identity, for example, is central to understanding her approach to the genres of portraiture and landscape. Image-specific photographic portraits and ethereally beautiful abstract cast glass sculpture relay aspects of both. Similarly, Horn’s intricately cut and pigmented drawings suggest something of the elemental nature of the earth that relates in turn to how the landscape of Iceland, where Horn has traveled and made work since 1975, has informed her practice.

Iceland has been a place of continual inspiration to the artist. Since 1990 Horn has produced an extraordinary series of books titled To Place with photographs of lava, geysers, glacial rivers, and hot pools, which will be presented. As Horn is quoted in the catalogue, “As a mass produced, portable object…the book goes out into the world, ultimately locating itself into the world where it is most desired.” Horn’s interest in writing and language is also reflected in her sculptures in which lines from Emily Dickinson’s writings are structurally embedded into aluminum rods. These machined, minimal pieces relate back in turn to sculptural installations like Things that Happen Again, for Two Rooms, which similarly uses an industrial process as a way to objectify language and give the viewer room for interpretation. Horn’s work has an undeniable material presence, a seductive, sensual beauty. Her means may seem simple, but her basic concerns with the nature of representation and the role played by the mind and subjectivity are deeply philosophical.

Major photographic works illustrate the various ways in which Horn has explored the genre of portraiture. This is Me, This is You (1999-2000) encompasses two separated panels of forty-eight paired photographs of Horn’s young niece as she plays with different identities and grows into adulthood. Cabinet Of (2001) comprises thirty-six photographs of a clown making expressions. In these works, the identity of the sitter is never fixed by the camera. You are the Weather (1994- 95) is an installation of one hundred close-up photographs of a woman immersed in Iceland's hot pools in changing climatic conditions, her features responding to the weather.

A large range of Horn's drawings are included in the exhibition, from her 1982 series Bluff Life to more recent works made from cutting and reconfiguring lines of pure pigment on expansive surfaces. Approaching them, their initial appearance shifts as one begins to look at the details of Horn’s cuts and pencil marks. Writing about the exhibition in its earlier, critically acclaimed incarnation at Tate Modern, Rachel Campbell-Johnston noted in the (London) Times: “Horn’s work moves (rather than develops) in a way that we can never quite predict. She never allows us to feel too familiar or certain of our assumptions…To walk through this show is to walk into a world of constant reflections…Horn’s art is to show you something that you cannot see.” And in The Guardian, Adrian Searle wrote, “The complications multiply; the paradox is how simple Horn’s art at first appears…For all the airiness and feeling of space, the show still gives us Horn’s breadth and range.”

Throughout the exhibition’s installation at the Whitney, the integration and cross relationships among the mediums in which the artist works will be fluid and the presentation on two floors will explore structurally the crucial concept of doubling in Horn’s work.

Whitney Museum of American Art | Roni Horn | Institute of Contemporary Art | Boston | Tate Modern | Rachel Campbell-Johnston |

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