Roni Horn

Jablonka Galerie

Roni Horn’s reputation rests on her perfectly crafted objects. They are professionally produced with the aid of machines, leaving nothing to chance. The polished surfaces emit a pure clarity. Perfection, decisiveness, and exactitude are the hallmark of these objects, and now, at first glance, her drawings appear to contradict the esthetic of her objects. But these drawings are not simply studies for the objects; they represent another genre of her artistic production.

This does not mean that the drawings are any less well-crafted than the objects; they are concerned, however, with another level of artistic production and perfection. Horn draws by hand; she does not use a machine. With extreme care she uses pure pigment in an emulsion, drawing thin lines that form ovals, triangles, or bows. This process leaves fingerprints on the white paper. The surface is not clean, but dirtied, as if the final work had been left to chance.

Likewise, there is a different type of decisiveness in the drawings. Horn begins by drawing a simple form, and then turns the paper until she finds the correct position for the initial shape or line. She then adds other pieces of paper until she has created a rectangle. The drawings seem to be puzzles, taking shape in the process of creation. They don’t possess a pure, clean surface but, rather, bear witness to a process governed by chance, by trial and error. However, they do have one thing in common with her more polished objects: they are both produced in pairs. While the objects are perfect identical copies of one another since they are produced by machines, the drawings only resemble each other.

Exactly this difference in the pairs of drawings gives rise to questions that go beyond those raised by the objects. One can speak of memory in relation to the drawings, but it also seems that Horn is questioning the identity of the sign. For the Minimalists every sign was simply an identical sign: a white square was a white square and nothing else. Today, the post-Structuralists have shown that a sign is not identical with itself and that its meaning is produced by its relationship to other signs, through a relationship of difference. While the objects speak of identity, the drawings show difference. The space between them is a mark of one of the most pressing perceptual questions today—the relationship between the post-Modern subject and the work of art.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.