Emily Dickinson Emily Dickinson

Roni Horn I Give You a Pear That Was Given Me - Would That it Were A Pair, But Nature is Penurious 2007 bar with text embedded in it.

Roni Horn
I Give You a Pear That Was Given Me - Would That it Were A Pair, But Nature is Penurious 2007
Aluminium and solid cast white plastic
Glenstone
© The artist, courtesy Hauser & Wirth Zürich London

Since the late 1980s, Horn has made a series of sculptures in which lines from Emily Dickinson’s poems and letters appear. These sculptures are made of solid plastic letters embedded in aluminium bars. They are propped against the wall so that the letters are legible from the front and back, but from the sides appear as a series of black or white lines.

Horn is drawn to the ‘heightened sensibility’ manifested in Dickinson’s poetry. The poet’s sensitivity to visible and invisible events and things resonates with the artist’s similarly sharp attention to the world around her. Horn admires the way that Dickinson’s texts ‘scraped the symbolic’ out of language, causing poetry ‘to function in a non-abstract, non-figurative manner’. In her sculptures, Horn gives Dickinson’s words solid form, complementing the poet’s language with the physical presence of the object.

The White Dickinsons (Room 1) use phrases culled from the poet’s letters. The largest of these works reads I GIVE YOU A PEAR THAT WAS GIVEN MEWOULD THAT IT WERE A PAIR, BUT NATURE IS PENURIOUS. These words anticipate Horn’s own interest in doubles and word pairs, and the relationships she creates between ‘you’ and ‘me’. The Key and Cues (Room 12) use the first lines of poems. Like keys, they open up realms of thought and cue new possibilities. TO MAKE A PRAIRIE IT TAKES A CLOVER AND ONE BEE reads one, a statement that recalls Horn’s own transformative use of simple materials.