A portrait I could not have imagined without the unwitting aid of friends, acquaintances, and knowing strangers.’ Embedded in ‘The Selected Gifts, (1974 – 2015)’ is not only the passage of time – the earliest gift harks back to 1974 – but also the implication of collaboration, albeit unknowing, between recipient and gift giver – the identities of which remain a mystery to viewers. Horn’s process of sifting through and selecting from her unruly collection of objects further shapes her self-portrait. Laced with humor, ‘The Selected Gifts, (1974 – 2015)’ elicits questions about the contingent nature of meaning and identity, a theme situated at the very core of Horn’s art.
Unfolding over adjacent gallery spaces, two new major series of drawings similarly weigh humor with larger questions about the fluidity of meaning and identity. The Dog’s Chorus and Th Rose Prblm expand upon the intricate, labor-intensive approach to drawing that Horn has developed since the early 1980s. Beginning with an arguably destructive act, Horn utilizes a Stanley knife to slice up an original drawing (in an act that is itself a form of line making). Horn then reassembles the fragments into something new, creating pulsating grounds that appear tangled.
Following a similar approach for Th Rose Prblm, Horn cuts together two well-worn phrases: ‘Rose is a rose is a rose’ or ‘a rose is a rose is a rose’, with ‘come up smelling like roses’ or ‘coming up smelling like a rose’. Horn further sharpens her conceptual approach to language here, splicing these expressions together in all their possible iterations. Employing what she calls ‘downright dumb humor,’ this series also makes sense from nonsense. As Horn explains, ‘I was interested in the idea of rearranging these phrases into all the possible outcomes. I see it as a metaphor for identity. There are 48 drawings and I’m thinking of it as one work. So cumulatively the shades of meaning obtain a complexity and range that stand in for the mutable, changeable nature of identity.’ The complex, maze-like compositions set Horn’s surfaces into motion.
Nowhere is this interest more palpable than in Horn’s iconic cast glass sculptures. The exhibition at Hauser & Wirth concludes with two of the largest Horn has ever produced: ‘Water Double, v. 1’ and ‘Water Double, v. 3’. While these hulking cylinders appear to be adamantly solid forms, they are actually in imperceptible motion: Glass is neither liquid nor solid, but an amorphous liquid solid that exists between those two states of matter, with atoms moving too slowly for its condition of constant change to be visible. By virtue of this extraordinary duality, glass is an ideal medium for Horn’s exploration of the shifting grounds of meaning and identity. Each of her two new sculptures on view is comprised of two parts that are separated yet palpably connected, proffering us an invitation to contemplate easy, accepted notions of ‘likeness’ and ‘difference’.
Reflecting the changing natural light, these works partner with the weather and the constant cycles of time that we measure in days; they mirror our mercurial and unsteady standards of perception. Horn’s enigmatic and insistently present forms are each topped with an oculus. These translucent and highly reflective ‘pools’ of glass act as receptacles for reflections, accumulating snippets of their surroundings in an array of fragments that recall the splintered surfaces of Horn’s drawings. Elegant and deceptively simple, Horn’s forms are in fact extraordinarily ambitious feats of production that upon completion remain open-ended and defy straightforward experience. As ever with Horn, what you see is not necessarily what you get.
Hauser & Wirth, New York, 22nd Street, 27 April – 29 July 2017, Opening reception: Thursday 27 April, 6 – 8 pm