The American artist Roni Horn (born 1955) has two exhibitions this summer, “Butterfly to Oblivion” at the 2015 Foundation Vincent van Gogh in Arles, France and “Butterfly Doubt” at Hauser & Wirth in London, England.
Horn is an American sculptor, installation artist, draughtsman, photographer and writer. She studied at Rhode Island School of Design, Providence and Yale University and her work has been influenced by visits to Iceland, particularly her sculpture which is minimalist but carefully executed to layer it with subtle meaning, as seen in the exhibition at Arles. She often uses text as the basis for her drawings, which is evident from the series on display at both galleries.
The Foundation Vincent Van Gogh Foundation in Arles was inaugurated in 2014 to show work by the artist alongside exhibitions by contemporary and emerging artists. The second exhibition shows work of Van Gogh alongside exhibitions by Roni Horn and Tabaimo.
In her exhibition “Butterfly to Oblivion”, Horn presents new large glass sculptures alongside drawings from her series “Hack Wit” and photographs, which are created from images which have been cut up and reassembled into new poetic and artistic images, and felt to have an affinity with Van Gogh’s drawing.
At Hauser & Wirth, London, both galleries are dedicated to the exhibition “Butterfly Doubt” of three recent series of Horn’s drawings. One is “Hack Wit” (2013 – 2014), which is on display at Arles, and the other are “Or” (2014) and “Remembered Words” (2013). For Horn, drawing is a primary activity that underpins her wider themes of identity, double meanings, interpretation and textual playfulness. The “Or” series has evolved from her drawing techniques. Two images are cut into pieces and reassembled into a new sculptural image which seem to twist and turn in space. She uses a similar technique for her “Hack Wit” drawings but with phrases and proverbs reformed into new phrases with new meanings, while the original is not lost
Her “Remembered Words” present words in frames like exhibits in a museum or thumb prints in a police station with word associations that the viewer needs to examine carefully for the meaning. In some, there are colourful additional paint splashes which partially obscure the original words, suggesting exhibits that have been carelessly stored with one the one hand, loss of the original meaning, but on the other hand, a new ambiguity.
The two exhibitions show the breath and sophistication of Horn’s work. The London exhibition would have been richer with one of her sculptures also on display. We will have to wait for a future exhibition.
(Photographs from Vincent Van Gogh Foundation are copyright)