Louise Bourgeois,
Roni Horn

Past Exhibition 3 Jun – 22 Jul 2006 Zürich


Roni Horn. Portrait of an Image.

American artist Roni Horn (born 1955) lives and works in New York and Reykjavik. She is among the most important representatives of contemporary art. Since the early 1980s her works have been displayed in numerous solo and group exhibitions at leading art institutions worldwide. These include Inverleith House in Edinburgh (2006), Fotomuseum Winterthur (2003), Art Institute of Chicago (2004), Folkwang Museum Essen (2004), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2003), Dia Center for the Arts New York (2001-02), Museo Serralves, Porto (2001) and the Basel Kunsthalle (1995).

The artistic work of Roni Horn is expressed through the use of numerous media. In addition to her photographic work she focuses on spatial installations, works on paper and sculptures made from glass or metal. She also works intensively with words and language, using her own texts and those from other sources. She regularly publishes books that offer an intimate, sensuous access to her artistic work.

Her current exhibition Roni Horn, Portrait of an Image is the first major solo exhibition of her work in the Zurich gallery. At the centre is one of her most recent works – Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert) – a series of a hundred photographic portraits of French actress Isabelle Huppert, whose face reflects a wide variety of emotions. Horn photographed the actress in twenty sequences of five photos each. In each sequence, Huppert briefly slips into one of her film characters so that her face expresses personalities that do not exist in reality but only in the film. Roni Horn’s photographs show studies of physiognomy in the finest variations in which the individual is always a plurality.
The basic attitude that permits access to Roni Horn’s work is her idea of an encyclopedia of identity. Central to her series and pairs are the notions of diversity as the basis of identity, the capability of transformation and the impossibility of a permanently defined identity.

In addition to the photo series Portrait of an Image, Roni Horn shows one of her glass sculptures. Doubt Block is a rectangular amber-colored glass block (129 x106 x 55 cm) and weighs 1’840 kg. The sculpture is solid, highly polished, dense and indestructible. Its interior can be intuited, but is not accessible.
Further works in the exhibition – White Dickinson – are long square aluminum sculptures with words in white plastic cast within – texts include MY FLOWERS ARE NEAR AND FOREIGN, TO SHUT OUR EYES IS TRAVEL, or I THINK OF YOUR FOREST AND SEA AS A FAR OFF SHERBET. These sentences are from the published letters of Emily Dickinson and shows Roni Horn’s admiration for the writings of the poet.

Roni Horn’s latest publication “Rings of Lispector (Agua Viva)” will be available in good time for the exhibition in Zurich together with an essay by Hélène Cixous.
Book 1: 120 pages with 29 color plates
Book 2 (Agua Viva: Seventeen Paradoxes): 24 pages with 17 color plates
Steidl Verlag Göttingen and Hauser & Wirth Zurich London

Roni Horn and Louise Bourgeois Drawings – curated by Jerry Gorovoy

In a joint exhibition, Louise Bourgeois and Roni Horn present a selection of their fabric and pigment drawings. Jerry Gorovoy, a long-time assistant to Louise Bourgeois, is curator of the exhibition that has been designed specifically for Hauser & Wirth.

The drawings of both artists essentially represent original creations while on the other hand constituting a parallel investigation to their sculptural work. The twenty or so works displayed show that Bourgeois and Horn are concerned with examining the relationship of the doubling of form, the paired form and the spiral form. Also apparent is their related sense of structure, order and chaos; the cutting and pasting in Roni Horn’s drawings give them a corporeality similar that produced by the cutting and sewing of Louise Bourgeois’ works.

Louise Bourgeois’ body of drawings, created over the last 60 years, exhibits an immense diversity of techniques, forms and motifs. The exhibition focuses on the fabric drawings composed between 2003 and 2006. Some of these works are being shown publicly for the first time, others could recently be seen in a comprehensive exhibition of her works in Vienna’s Kunsthalle.
For the fabric drawings, Bourgeois uses her clothes, tablecloths and bed linen. She sews these fabrics, usually striped, in concentric circles and spirals together to form spider-like or kaleidoscope-like patterns to produce an “esthetic tissue of linearities” so that the two-dimensional surfaces acquire a sculptural character through the fabric and the seams. The material used, the act of sewing and darning, as well as the recurrent motif of the spider’s web are closely linked to her memories of her mother, who died at an early age and ran a workshop for restoring tapestries together with her husband. “I have always had the fear of being separated and abandoned. The sewing is my attempt to keep things together and make things whole.”

Roni Horn works mainly with sculpture, drawing and photography, without favoring any of these media. Important individual exhibitions have been frequently dedicated to her body of drawings, such as in the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2003-04), in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Basel (1995) and in the Kunstmuseum Winterthur (1993).
This exhibition displays a group of her pigment drawings produced since 1985. In looking at these abstract and extremely sublime drawings and contrasting them with the work of Bourgeois, the observer is struck by their formal similarities. Specks of red, green and blue pigment cohere in a fragmentary manner to form concentric circles and shape-pairs. These large-format drawings with words and fragments written in pencil result from the direct application of pigments onto paper followed by a process of scrupulously careful cutting into pieces and reconstituting them again. The pigment powder is applied to the paper with a little turpentine and then fixed by applying lacquer with a brush. The paper is finally cut up into strips and various geometrical shapes to be subsequently reconstituted again on a large sheet of paper that acts as a substrate, so that seams are produced just like in the fabric drawings of Louise Bourgeois. The composition created by cutting, pasting and recombining single fragments, like an assemblage, reveals the aims of a sculptress who engages with the nature of space and the relationship between individual elements.

Louise Bourgeois (born 1911 Paris) has lived and worked in New York since 1938.
Next year, the Tate Modern in London will devote a comprehensive retrospective to the artist to coincide with her 95th birthday (planned stations: Centre Pompidou Paris, Guggenheim New York and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art).

Selected images

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Installation views

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About the artists

Born in France in 1911, and working in America from 1938 until her death in 2010, Louise Bourgeois is recognized as one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th Century. For over seven decades, Bourgeois’s creative process was fueled…

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Using drawing, photography, installation, sculpture and literature, Roni Horn’s work consistently questions and generates uncertainty to thwart closure in her work, engaging with many different concerns and materials. Important across her oeuvre is her longstanding interest to the protean nature of identity,…

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