At the Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection in Paris, the American artist and writer Roni Horn explores the themes of the double and identity with great visual power, in dialogue with the visual artist Felix González-Torres.
” Loneliness is my great talent “, quips Roni Horn in her vast studio in Austerlitz in the State of New York, where she isolated herself for the duration of the confinement. There, in that bright space overlooking a pond surrounded by birch trees, she wrote on March 20, 2020 in graphite on a yellow watercolor sheet: “ I’m paralyzed with hope » (« I’m paralyzed with hope “), as if to signify the paradox between the amazement of this period and the immense expectation it generated. ” The act of attention or engagement is fundamental in my work. So is the paradox. He fascinates me sums up the artist, born in New York in 1955. Involving the viewer, insinuating confusion into their perception, such is the objective of the drawings, photographs and sculptures of this visual artist, initially influenced by the minimalism of Donald Judd, but who has developed since the early 1980s a sensitive and personal work around the themes of the double and identity.
The same and the other
Thus his first photographic installation, You are the weather (1994), presents one hundred close-up portraits of a young woman bathing in the hot springs of Iceland. A hundred times the same face, a hundred times different. ” Once immersed in the bath of the island – its climates, its geography, its lights, its mists, its vapors, its temperature variations – its face then becomes a barometer indexing the meteorological changes of the waters and the skies. explains Élisabeth Lebovici in the catalog of the Roni Horn retrospective organized by the Lambert Collection in Avignon in 2009, in collaboration with the Tate Modern in London and the Whitney Museum in New York. Same with the series Portrait of an image (with Isabelle Huppert) (2005), where Roni Horn asked the French actress to mentally rediscover the roles she played for ” find an axis, a look, a precise expression, an attitude, a feeling that belongs to this role “recalls Isabelle Huppert. Even more disturbing are two juxtaposed photographs of stuffed white owls (dead owl1997) appear identical.
But are they? ” This major ambiguity is the key. The focus of the work lies in the doubts and questions raised by experience. I would say things can be duplicated but not identical », declares the artist who exhibits thirty self-portraits from his archives assembled in pairs (aka, 2008-2009) for « to show that we are a collection of identities and that in this process of exploring our different facets we can approach a feeling of wholeness. The question of identity is particularly strong for Roni Horn, ‒ artist, woman and gay ‒ therefore belonging to minorities writes Caroline Bourgeois in the catalog of the exhibition “Felix González-Torres, Roni Horn” which is currently being held at the Bourse de Commerce, focusing on the relationship of friendship and creative emulation between the two American artists and the aspects of duplication, duality and identity specific to four major works in the Pinault Collection.
The drawing, a breath
Also can we connect the round molded and colored glass sculptures good and really (2009-2010) to Roni Horn’s concept of identity, as the appearance of their polished surface, varying according to the intensity of the light, rejects any fixed visual identity. These translucent sculptures that she has produced since the mid-1990s appear to have a liquid surface, and many of her photographs depict water, such as Become a landscape (1999-2001), ten pairs of color images as part of the project To place (since 1990), a sort of illustrated encyclopedia on the artist’s relationship with Iceland since his first stay in 1975. Iceland was a force, a force that took possession of me », recalls Roni Horn in Island zombie. Writings from Iceland (2020). ” Part of my attraction was the possibility of losing myself, it was both a fear and something that drew me to her. », says this insomniac who retired for six weeks in 1982 to a lighthouse on the Icelandic coast to create a series of watercolor and graphite drawings, Bluff life.
” Drawing is an activity that I have pursued over the decades, it is for me a daily breath “, she confides. Recently, the artist and writer collected water samples from twenty-four glaciers on the island and presented them in transparent glass columns in an old chapel in Stykkishólmur, West Iceland (Vatnasafn/ Water Library2007). On the ground of this water library causing anamorphic visual effects, terms in English and Icelandic relating to water emerge: “calm”, “violent”, “dark”, chosen by Hélène Cixous, to whom Roni Horn has dedicated a book, Index Cixousin 2005. With poetry, the American artist compared this work to a lighthouse in which the viewer would be the light…
The relationship to language and literature is particularly important in this granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, where ” education and language learning were essential and highly valued recalls the visual artist who graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1975 and Yale University in 1978. At the Bourse de Commerce, we discover her visual poems in which words emerge beyond the colors and cutouts of letters (Chorus of Dogs – Let it Slide Until the Cows Come Home2016), and his stick-sculptures dickinson white placed vertically against the walls, on which are engraved extracts from the correspondence of the American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). The artist is fascinated by this incandescent writer who lived as a recluse but traveled every day in spirit, and has dedicated several series of Dickinson Works to her. ” Alone in her room, she said, it was freedom. She wrote one thousand one hundred and seventy-five poems there. Dickinson closed his eyes and traveled out of this world “, writes Roni Horn, who also knows” the existence of these invisible places [qui] dominate the geography of our imagination and our dreams […] We need those places we’ve never been to, where we may never go. We need it not to escape, but to take stock of all the places we have known, and of ourselves. (Zombie Island. Icelandic writings).
“Felix Gonzales-Torres, Roni Horn”
Trade Exchange-Pinault Collection
2, rue de Viarmes, 75001 Paris
from April 6 to September 12
– The catalog, ed. Scholarship-Pinault and Dilecta Collection (176 pp., €45).
– Island zombie, Iceland writings, by Roni Horn, Princeton University Press (2020, 250 pp., 32€).
– Roni Horn, collective work, ed. Phebus (2009, 209 pp., €39).
The artist is represented by the Hauser & Wirth gallery (United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Spain, Monaco, Hong Kong): www.hauserwirth.com