Roni Horn Opposite of White, v. 1 2006

Roni Horn
Opposite of White, v. 1 2006
Courtesy: The artist and Hauser & Wirth Zürich London  © Roni Horn

Horn understands water as ‘a form of perpetual relation, not so much a substance but a thing whose identity is based on its relation to other things. Most of what you’re looking at when you look at water is light reflection.’ In 1999, she made photographs of the Thames showing its swirling surface, opacity, and changing colours. She used the photographs in Still Water (The River Thames, for Example) 1999 (Room 8). Below the images run a sequence of footnotes about the history of the river, its presence in the city, and the relationships we have to water. Many footnotes are addressed to ‘you’, making the viewer a reader within the public space of the gallery, and encouraging his or her own reflections.

Some of Horn’s cast glass sculptures appear as pools of water; all of them dramatise mutability. The sides of these works are translucent and rough-edged, having been in contact with the surface of the mould. By contrast their top surfaces are highly reflective, since here the glass has only been in contact with air during the casting process. Depending on the light around the sculpture and the position of the viewer, the works are surprisingly transparent, or dramatically reflective. The viewer intuits that though solid, the identity of the objects cannot be fixed, a condition which might mirror their own self-understanding.

There is an alchemical quality to Horn’s glass sculptures, such as Pink Tons 2008 (Room 8), since everyday glass is transformed into massive yet changeable solids. Opposite of White, v.1 (Large) 2006–7 and Opposite of White, v.2 (Large) 2006–7 (Room 9) are closely related works. One is made from colourless glass, the other is of black glass. They offer two different ‘opposites’, manifesting the absence of colour.