Meticulously executed, ‘Untitled (“Y is for the ambush of youth and escaping it year by year.”)’ (2013–2017) is an outstanding example of Roni Horn’s highly technical sculptures. Exploring the effect of multiplicity, perception and identity, Horn plays with a disjunction between the physical properties of sculpture and the pictorial illusions of its presence.
Horn’s longstanding exploration of, and engagement with, cast-glass sculptures dates back to the mid-1990s and underscores her exploratory practice. To produce these works, colored molten glass is poured into a mold, which gradually hardens over the course of several months. The resulting sculpture is highly textural: its sides are rough with the impression of the mould in which it was cast, while its fire-polished top is smooth and glossy, resembling a crystalline pool of water.
‘In the glass pieces, what fascinates me has a lot to do with the essence of something that has one appearance but is really something completely different. For example, glass is a (super-cooled) liquid, not a solid. It’s a pretty amazing thing that a material as ubiquitous as glass can masquerade like that. It’s like having a mask but the mask is identical to the real thing.’
Due to its formal properties—in particular, its captivating transparency—the sculpture appears to be in a constant state of change, adapting its appearance to its surroundings. Gradations of sunlight and shadow activate the work, fluctuating between heft and lightness, solidity and fluidity, opacity and transparency. In this way, Horn’s glass sculptures embody the heart of her practice: probing the relationship between mutability and place.
Literary themes, which are present throughout much of Horn’s work, are also reflected in her glass sculptures. The artist derives her titles for works from writings of authors like Emily Dickinson, Flannery O’Connor and Hank Williams. They offer a narrative portal through which to enter her work, while still retaining an open and ambiguous quality. For this sculpture, Horn quotes from Anne Carson’s 2016 book of poetry ‘Float’. The title—simultaneously poetic, vivid and nostalgic—draws attention to the paradoxical and experiential qualities of the artist’s work.
 Roni Horn, quoted in ‘Roni Horn: Everything Was Sleeping as if the Universe Were a Mistake’, Barcelona/ES: Fundació Joan Miró, 2014, p. 128.
Artwork: Roni Horn, Untitled (“Y is for the ambush of youth and escaping it year by year.”), 2013 – 2017 © Roni Horn. Photo: Ron Amstutz Portrait of Roni Horn. Photo: Mario Sorrenti Hauser & Wirth Gstaad. Photo: Jon Etter