Thursday, February 25, 2010

Roni Horn at ICA, Boston

Yesterday was another gloomy and rainy New England winter day.  I almost didn't go to the ICA here in Boston to see the Roni Horn aka Roni Horn exhibit because of the awful weather, but I certainly am glad that I did brave the elements afterall.  In fact, I think I may have enjoyed the show even more because of the weather.  It was a fantastic collection of sculpture, photography, paintings, and poetry all by the artist, Roni Horn.

Horn is an American artist born in the 50's here in New York.  She is a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and now splits her time between New York and Iceland.  Her work is largely concerned with identity and the experience of the here and now.  Her work has been shown the world over and her works have earned her quite a bit of recognition in art circles.

I could give you a detailed description of the pieces that I saw, but I feel that it would defeat the purpose of the artist's work.  I think what she really wanted was for me to use her works as a mirror for what was going on inside myself while I was walking through the show.  Her photographs, paintings, blocks of pink glass, and giant ant farm were all hugely minimalistic and didn't offer much to analyze in terms of content or construction other than the obvious.  Instead, I spent the afternoon pondering in a meditative state focusing on the feelings evoked within myself by the art.  I hope I didn't miss the point of the show, but the dreary weather put me in that sort of mood.  Plus, I am a huge Romantic after all...

For example, the giant ant farm made me feel like a child again.  It was oversized - perhaps twenty times the size of a normal one.  I sat in front of it, legs crossed and on the cold concrete floor, and stared at the busy ants inside for a good ten minutes.  I thought about how much I had wanted an ant farm when I was a boy, but my parents wisely wouldn't let me have one for fear of the ants escaping into the house.  It was powerfully nostalgic and I also experienced memories of longing for unobtainable things and the sense of disappointment and eventually release that comes from ultimate acceptance of unattainability.

The pink glass block on the other hand was uplifting.  It was showcased in the lobby of the ICA and I walked around it admiring the beauty of the bubbles and waves on the inside of the block against the sharp fissures on the outside of it.  The museum guard actually warned me to "mind my clothes" so they didn't get damaged from the sharp glass edges.  Maybe I was getting too close.  It was sensual and even sexy in a way, and I found the stark contrasts between the inside and outside of the massive five ton block to be thought-provoking.  I've always been most intrigued by people with gruff or stoic exteriors combined with tender inner-beings.  I had a hard time leaving the piece behind to see the rest of the exhibit.  Happily, there were other glass blocks to be seen throughout the room and each had the same Zen feel that caused me to get lost in each for different reasons.

There was also a small round metal ball of sorts that appeared to be a sphere set on the ground in one of the galleries.  I passed it by on my first walk through and then picked up one of the very helpful cards provided by the museum about the works in each gallery.  The card pointed out that the ball was not a sphere at all, but slightly imperfect.  It made me think about how things are not always as they seem at first glance.  It also reminded me to slow down and take in all possible aspects of a situation into consideration before making a judgment, which I need constant reminder of in daily life.

Perhaps the most defining moment of the exhibit, however, was making a transition from a room of photographs of water to the breathtaking view of the Boston harbor that the ICA provides.  I sat in the observatory and listened to a looped soundtrack of Horn reading poetic meanderings and meditations on water.  I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness on the gloomy day while rain pelted against the large plate glass windows and the choppy water churned against the grey sky.  I must admit that I got a little teary-eyed, but the catharsis of this experience was amazing overall and a fitting end to my walk through the numerous galleries devoted to Horn's work.

I have read some mildly negative reviews about Horn's previous exhibition at the Whitney.  My only response would be that the view of the Boston Harbor is what made it for me.  I think that because the artist's work is so dependent on individual experience, that setting to a large extent must affect the overall impression one gets from the show.  The gray rainy day and the minimalist work all combined to create a powerful and personal emotional landscape for me that I was happy to have been a part of.  I'm thinking about visiting again on a clear day to see if I have a different feeling from the exhibit.  For certain, it is a collection of works that demands introspection and thought on the viewer's part, and for me that translated to another fantastic afternoon spent at the ICA.

No comments:

Post a Comment