Review: Roni Horn AKA Roni Horn

You’ve seen a ton of traffic. Now come see a ton of pink.

The tag line for Roni Horn AKA Roni Horn (February 19 – June 13) at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, attempts at drawing in the crowds through the artist’s play on the color pink.  As human beings, we tend pre-judge many things that cross our path and through Horn’s exploration of identity, perception and place, her sculptures and photographs challenge the viewer to look twice before judging.

And yes, if you’re wondering about the marketing tag line for Horn’s show, expect to see pink all around you.  As a color, pink has often been associated with feminine qualities, yet Horn allow us to see beyond it and into the androgynous world she dwells in further inciting thoughts within her audience.

In today’s technologically overloaded world, we seldom stop to look at a painting or a photograph, let alone discuss their formal qualities and meanings. Roni Horn as an artist has no other option than to force her audience to stop, take a second look and create a direct connection between her “art and our sense of discovery.”

Horn’s thirty year retrospective at the ICA plays with our memory and sense of perception, challenging us the moment one steps inside the museum. One of the most popular pieces in the exhibition is Pink Tons, a five ton pink glass cube situated in a corner at the entrance of the ICA. As one peers over the cube, Horn reminds us that things are not always what they appear to be. Naturally, our mind leads us to think that the cube is solid, but Horn distorts this reality by making the center seem “molten.”  Emphasizing one’s individuality is at the center of Horn’s works. Roni Horn’s art treats issues like age, gender, sexual orientation and even mood as things that are “never fixed but always shifting.”

Horn employs a vocabulary that is not only thought provoking, but also inspiring. Her work deals with the poetry of Emily Dickinson and other famous authors. The artist has long been fascinated by the 19th century poet who used language to “defy restrictions of place, society and identity.”

However, Horn only uses small fragments of Dickinson’s poems, thereby forcing her audience to invent and make assumptions of what is to come. Roni Horn AKA Roni Horn is full of contradictions and this is one of them.

In questioning identity and gender, Horn poses several questions to her audience by means of photography and sculptures in the exhibition. As part of the ICA’s “Collection in the Making” program, curators have exhibited the works of groundbreaking artists like Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin in other galleries further complementing Horn’s exhibition. Sherman as an artist is known for calling attention to the stereotyping of women in film, magazines and television. Goldin on the other hand, is known for her intense, highly personal and at times sexually charged photography of drag queens, friends, drug addicts and other subjects close and dear to her heart. Both Sherman and Goldin have posed the same questions Horn has to her audience.

For some critics, the Roni Horn exhibition at the ICA has proven to be disengaging for not suggesting real risk, real audacity and real creative compassion. Horn as an artist does a tremendous job at engaging her audience in a conversation that deal with identity, age, gender, and even sexual orientation. Her sculpture more than her photography remind us that life is full of fleeting moments and in order to savor them, one must stop,  take a second look before imposing our judgments upon others.

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2 Comments

  1. I am forever jealous of your location and your drive. When I lived in Chicago, I didn’t take advantage of all the city had to offer–at least, museum-wise. I had my awesome museum day job, and spent my evenings working in Chicago’s vibrant classical music and theater scene.

    Which, don’t get me wrong, was totally awesome, but it meant that I rarely visited other museums.

    After 2 1/2 years of living in Des Moines (which is surprisingly LOVELY, by the way, just smaller than I’m used to), I have the insatiable urge to visit a bunch of large cities and their world-class museums. Perhaps that’s why I get so giddy when I get a free day in NYC when we visit my husband’s family.

    I must get myself to Boston (my last trip was in 2001 and I didn’t get to see much) and immerse myself with museums — and I’ll use your blog as a guide!

    (sigh) one day. :-)

    Reply
    • Hey Lindsey! Thanks for your comment! Chicago is an awesome city! So much going on in the arts! I’ve haven’t been to Des Moines, yet, but I tend to like big cities a lot more than smaller towns.

      Boston is super nice too, not as huge as Chicago, but definitely it had it’s share of amazing cultural institutions! You should definitely come back soon! Harvard University Art Museums are currently undergoing an expansion with an addition by Renzo Piano, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is also undergoing an expansion by Renzo Piano and most of its tapestries are being restored and will be properly displayed as she intended. The Museum of Fine Arts opened their new wing of art of the Americas six month ago. Fantastic. In September, the new contemporary art wing at the MFA will open! The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University is also undergoing an addition! Most will be completed by 2012! Tons going on!

      Reply

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