More than any other part of her practice, Roni Horn’s works on paper bear a distinct “craft” element; they are like intricate embroideries that have been painstakingly stitched on to the support over hours. Known for her work across photography, sculpture and installation, drawing has nevertheless formed a defining area of Horn’s artistic practice since 1980, and one that is no less attuned to the intricacies, demands and constraints of space. She has previously spoken about the act of drawing as a form of delineation, a construction of material and physical reality that doesn’t give up its shape-shifting ways. And Horn’s drawings certainly have a chameleon-like edge to them. Not quite collages, they appear in a constant state of flux, a tug-of-war between the expansive whiteness of the paper and the turbulent forms and lines that explode from it.
For her solo exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Zurich, “Wits’ End Sampler | Recent Drawings,” on view June 10-September 1, Horn presents large-scale drawings from the series “Yet,” alongside a new installation that extends the artist’s long-held interest in wordplay, and the treatment of language and text as just another physical material, cutting and splicing it across the page with ease and glee. Extending her drawing practice into physical space, the exhibition also includes the titular “Wits’ End Sampler,” for which Horn invited strangers and associates to write down idioms and cliches of their own choosing. This exercise accumulated more than 1,000 individual, handwritten phrases by multiple authors and contributors, which now find themselves hosted on the gallery walls, the latter silk-screened with these idioms to create a constructed linguistic environment, a mise-en-abime in which texts explode beyond the frame of the drawings to envelop the viewer.
Throughout her work, Horn muddies the clean aesthetics of Post-Minimalism, although there’s always an order inherent in the apparent madness. The large-scale drawings from the “Yet” series are indicative of this. An initial layer of powdered pigment, graphite and varnish has been worked into first-phase drawings, called “plates,” which are then meticulously cut apart. These paper shards are subsequently rearranged and reassembled, harboring a potential for further cycles of splicing and stitching together before they can rest in their ultimate form. With each layer, pencil marks, numbers and words accrue as Horn annotates the joining of the plates in each drawing. Hers is a work that delights in the tiniest of permutations. It is drawing as sculpture, like a child’s kaleidoscope, that invites you in and demands a constant shift in position. “Yet 1,” all works 2013/2017, might, from afar, be a sheaf of golden wheat thrusting upwards, but a close examination reveals hundreds of cryptic abbreviations and shreds of words caught mid-utterance: “Jane Fonda”, “Derekk Walco” (Walcott?), “WITCHCRAFT,” “RUST.” Elsewhere, “Yet 5” is a looping tangle of lines that creep in ever so subtly from one corner of the paper before sprawling across it and into the middle. Language, in all its malleable glory.
Roni Horn’s solo exhibition “Wits’ End Sampler | Recent Drawings” is on view June 10-September 1, at Hauser & Wirth Zurich, Hauser & Wirth Zurich, Limmatstrasse 270
8005 Zurich. More information: www.hauserwirth.com
Click on the slideshow for a sneak peek at the exhibition.
Founder: Louise Blouin