Roni Horn Paired Gold Mats, for Ross and Felix 1994

Roni Horn
Paired Gold Mats, for Ross and Felix 1994
Installation at Tate Britain 2009
Pure gold 1245 x 1524 x 0.2 mm, 1.8 kg
Art Institute of Chicago
Photo © Tate

Horn has made a series of sculptures with the name Asphere (one of which can be seen in Room 5). Though at first they seem to be spheres, each one is slightly off-spherical and uniquely shaped. ‘Asphere is an homage to androgyny.’ Horn has said. ‘It gives the experience of something initially familiar, but the more time spent with it, the less familiar it becomes. I think of it as a self-portrait.’ Horn’s propensity to think about her sculptures in allusive and metaphorical terms is one of the marks of her distance from Minimalism.

Another example of this tendency is Paired Gold Mats, for Ross and Felix 1994–5 (Room 6) which Horn titled after the artist Felix Gonzales-Torres and his partner Ross Laycock who had died of AIDS. In 1990, Gonzales-Torres was powerfully affected by seeing Horn’s 1982 Gold Field, a work in which she set aside the cultural and economic associations of the metal to explore its materiality. ‘I wanted to remove all of these civilizing corruptions and bring gold back to its simplest physical being’, she has commented. After she became friends with Gonzales- Torres, Horn returned to using gold, this time making a paired object. It comprises two sheets of gold foil placed one above the other, and when its crinkled landscape is hit by sunlight, a glow ignites the interior. Pairing here suggests physical intimacy; placed directly on the floor, the sculpture also suggests the fragility of the pairing it commemorates.

Room 9 includes Her Eyes (Intimate but Untouchable) 1999/ 2005, an aluminum bar installed high up one wall. The text ‘HIS MOTHER’S EYES, INTIMATE BUT UNTOUCHABLE, WERE THE BLUE OF GREAT DISTANCES AFTER SUNSET’ derives from a short story by Flannery O’Connor, and collapses the language of portraiture and landscape, genres which merge in several of Horn’s other works.