Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Hauser & Wirth, Saville Row 
 UNTITLED © Roni Horn; Courtesy the artist & Hauser & Wirth   
Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zurich

Ten coloured glass sculptures stand in a large airy North Gallery, which welcomes the shimmering patterns of light and weather from the street outside. For a moment I see them as giant lozenges, frosted with sugar. Each is the size of patio tub, with sides which are matte and would be rough to touch. The tops are smooth as silk. You could be looking down on still, sacred water resting in a ceremonial vessel. You want to dip your hand in to test it, but already you know the answer. 

Some pieces are as pale as a cloud, others are shades of blue - delphinium, pale lavender, aquamarine; the colours of glaciers and summer skies; flowers, the Aegean sea and butterflies.

 Roni Horn, an American artist, has said that she choses Iceland as her material in the way that a sculptor might chose marble. She has documented the country in books and photographs, focusing particularly on the changeability of the weather. The art critic Adrian Searle describes her Library of Water - at a building north of Reykjavik - where she has a glade of glass columns, each containing melted water from a different Icelandic glacier, glaciers which are disappearing...

I have loved her work since the time when she was Rebecca Horn and I walked into the Tate (in the 1990s?)and spied a grand piano hanging from the ceiling. It was called Concert for Anarchy. and was not the sort of thing you meet every day, even in an art gallery. Moreover it was a working piano timed to go off every 2 or 3 minutes. The lid flies open and the keys  thrust themselves out higgledy piggledy, the strings inside shuddering and the noise, well, challenging. A minute or two later the keys sidle back into their rightful place and the lid closes and you wait in suspense for what might happen next.

Everything is a shock. The piano looks precarious - but you know it can't be. It's a musical instrument which needs a gifted touch to bring it to life - but this one has dispensed with all that. Nor does it need human music - it composes its own.

The piano itself had formerly been used as a prop for her film Buster's Bedroom 1990 (Tate T11851) set in a Californian mental asylum. Horn describes how, the piano having freed itelf from the psychiatric clinic,  is now composing its own music, developing a new tonalty (Rebecca Horn, The Glance of Infinity).

Untitled is very beautiful and with weather extremes predicted in the next week or so, it'll be possible to see it in many different lights.

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