Roni Horn

Roni Horn in Museum de Pont

The main strength of the De Pont Museum in Tilburg Netherlands, are the surprising and sheer possibilities offered by the large light-flooded museum interior. The former industrial hall of, what once was a textile mill, comprises a roof with skylights, allowing daylight to exuberantly flow in from the east and from the west. An uninterrupted continuous roof, that runs across the entire space. Allowing a sea of daylight to engulf and to create a sweltering space between the floor and the industrial pier of the span.

A kind of sandwich, where the funky, eclectic goodies are placed in between the floor and the roof. A visually and horizontally continuous space, interrupted only by white partitioning walls. Their function is to divide the space into a series of exhibition rooms of different size. And although the height of the hall is beneficial, it is modest compared to the length and width. The space that the main exhibition hall offers is especially ‘wide’, in the way that it continues in the horizontally extending floor plane, and the lines of the canopy.

The why of this somewhat lengthy introduction is contained in the objects that are on display. They are the work of American artist Roni Horn. The objects are large -almost man size- gently tapered cylinders. On closer examination these pastel coloured objects turn out to be huge glass tanks which sizzle in the daylight flooded exhibition hall. This installation is especially vibrant, I dare to say, when one visits on a day with variable light conditions. Because when weather conditions are both cloudy and sunny, these works of Roni Horn are experienced at their best. The weather changes ever so often in this time of year, but it allows the visitor not only to witnesses the effect the changing light brings but moreover that these changing light conditions not only affect the exhibited objects but hence the entire Museum’s space. Amazingly surprising and almost sacral in itself, is the effect of the light that appears to pulsate in the glass cylinders. So beautifully crafted with a high polished shining top and matt finished sides. Silence ….

Such is the power of an artist like Roni Horn (New York 1955). Roni Horn plays with you as a spectator and breaks into your brain directly and scrambles thoughts that arise in your mind when you see her work straight away. In many of the art works created by Horn this effect is fired by a text literally presented as or within the work. A phrase she formulated herself, or derived from writers and poets who in their turn have ‘turned on’ Roni Horn’s mind. This approach in the art of Roni Horn, puts the viewer’s experience in a central position. In other words, it is all about the transfer of the exchange of ideas and views between the artist and the spectator: “Experiencing the work is the meaning”.

The artist conveys that ‘looking becomes reading and by reading, one can see’. This is also experienced in the statement of Horn’s work that is presented in the smaller ‘wool-storage rooms’ of the De Pont Museum. Here, some of Roni Horn’s works from the eighties and nineties are exhibited. The wool-storage rooms originate intimate spaces in which you will be together with only 1 or 2 works. In direct contact, so to say, the works “speak” directly to you. In addition to the aforementioned monumental glass sculptures, we see smaller works, series of photos, drawings and gouaches in which you can explore the “thought experiments” that Horn pulls on you.

Roni Horn Water-Teller 2015

To introduce you to one of these works I would like to focus on: the ‘double portrait’ of (fashion photographer) Jürgen Teller entitled “Water Teller”, a work which has not been exhibited anywhere before.

In the diptych we see the face of Teller not as a direct portrait, but as the image of the reflection of his face in the water. This automatically generates a connection to the legend of Narcissus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Narcissus did not recognise the difference between his own body and its reflection in the water. In love with his own reflection, this ultimately will become fatal to him. If we combine this work with the text on a Roni Horn gouache from 2010 that is on display in one of the other intimate exhibition rooms, with the text “When You See Your Reflection in Water Do You Recognize the Water in You” Horn opens up an entirely new possibility here to appreciate the classical masterpiece of Ovid. As we all largely consist of water.

It is striking that “the weather” in the work of Roni Horn is a recurring theme. Nature and man are inextricably linked. Besides the weather, nature and landscape have an impact on the changing personality of man and so in many cases the conditions and environment have a much greater impact on us than we would like to believe.

Roni Horn still of interview on Louisiana Channel

Returning to the introduction, in this museum gallery that is constantly influenced by weather and light conditions, the recent monumental glass sculptures by Roni Horn are on show until 29 May 2016. Go and experience for yourself the ways and approach of Roni Horn in this exhibition where the genesis of her own identity forms a full and profound second layer. Worth a visit indeed.

Roni Horn, 23 January – 29 May 2016
De Pont Museum Tilburg, Netherlands
Images by ©vangervenvanrijnberk: Roni Horn, glass objects No Title 2015

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