Roni Horn in Minorca: Playing with Perception

Opening Day 2024, Hauser & Wirth Gallery on L'Illa del Rei, a small island reached in 15 minutes on the gallery’s ferry from Mahón
Opening Day 2024, Hauser & Wirth Gallery on L'Illa del Rei, a small island reached in 15 minutes on the gallery’s ferry from Mahón

What a surprise we were in for.

We planned our trip to Minorca/Menorca around opening day at Hauser & Wirth, wanting to see the gallery (it opened just three years ago following a repurposing of the eighteenth-century outbuildings of a naval hospital) and its exhibition of sculptures by the revered Spanish artist, Eduardo Chillida, along with a smaller showing of Roni Horn’s work.

The first thing we saw when entering the gallery was Roni’s glass, pond-like sculptures. Nine of them, sitting on the floor, looking like they weighed a ton and appearing to be filled with water.

“It’s not water,” Magellan said as we got a closer look. “It’s solid glass.”

I should have guessed, given uncertainty and ambiguity are the dual signatures of Roni’s art. (Remember Roni’s “Library of Water”  in Iceland?)

Roni has been designing cast-glass sculptures since the mid-1990s. Made by pouring molten optical glass into molds that gradually harden over several months, their opaque sides are roughly textured, while their fire-polished tops look like the crystal-clear surface of a tranquil pool of water. Roni has said these visually ambiguous glass sculptures have “this mischievous appearance as a solid, but technically it’s a supercooled liquid.”

A cloud passing overhead must have obscured the light in the gallery when we looked at the first glass sculpture, because when we moved on to another one, the site-specific synthesis of art and nature in Roni’s art became clear.

In a moment, the time it took to say, “Look at this!”, sunlight on the fired-glass surface created a playful image.

Every viewer sees a fleeting here-and-now image created by the elements of nature—light and weather—the time of day, and the place of observation. Essentially, you the viewer become an element of the sculpture.

The exhibition of Roni’s work included playful yardstick-like sculptures inscribed with the verses of Emily Dickinson, plus sculptural works in gold and copper. At first, they don’t seem to have anything in common with the glass ponds. But when you think about it, they continue the longstanding themes that Roni, a peripatetic conceptual artist, addresses in her work.

“Her impact lies in her ability to challenge and expand the boundaries of artistic expression, fostering a dialogue on the interrelations of self, art, and environment, grounded in rational and reflective thought,” is how the contemporary art site Fakewhale explains Roni’s art. 

Roni Horn is drawn to remote places; while she lives in Greenwich Village and has a home on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, she has spent a lot of time in Iceland (Photo: Hauser & Wirth)

“She does not feel she fits in anywhere, personally or professionally, and never has,” writes Ted Loos in The New York Times. “So she simply follows her ideas wherever they lead her.”

My idea for this blogpost was to include everything about our afternoon on L’Illa del Rei: the gallery; Roni and Eduardo’s sculptures; the gardens; the opening-day party with lots of people enjoying the art, the food stations and a live band; the old hospital; our walk around the island…Instead, I let instinct take the lead: there will be three stories about this special place in Menorca. 

Navigation

Loos, Ted. “Roni Horn, a Restless Artist With 4 Shows and More Identities.” The New York Times. April 19, 2024.

Fer, Briony. “Roni Horn. Art Forum. Briony writes that Donald Judd and Agnes Martin, artists in love with empty landscapes, have informed Roni’s work over her more than fifty-year career.

Hauser & Wirth Menorca

“The Essence of Roni Horn: Identity, Nature, and Artistic Evolution.” Fakewhale. March 4, 2024.

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