Roni Horn - Angie and Emily Dickinson

21 January - 26 March 2006

Roni Horn

Roni Horn: installation view, "Angie and Emily Dickinson", Inverleith House, 2006.  

This was the first solo exhibition in the UK by the American artist Roni Horn. Based in New York and Iceland, Horn (b.1955) is one of the most highly regarded and influential artists of her generation and we were grateful to her for selecting and installing the works displayed here, at Inverleith House, and for suggesting that we collaborate with Museion in Bolzano, Italy, where a counterpart exhibition was also shown.

Unlike many artists, Roni Horn consistently works across a range of different media. She is perhaps best known for her photographic works, two of the most familiar series were presented here; Doubt by Water (2003-4) and Still Water (The River Thames, For Example) (1999). However, she is also known for her drawings, which often take the form of collages and for her sculptures in glass and in metal. The four metal sculptures on show here were being exhibited for the first time in public. She is also known for a continuing series of publications To Place, begun in 1988, and the production of works in published as well as in original form.

Horn is based in New York and also in Iceland, where she has a studio in Reykjavik having returned every year since her first visit in 1975. Her work is concerned with difference and identity, often expressed through series of images and pairings - and Iceland provides the conditions which often best enable her to do this. Through her frequent visits, she has amassed what she describes as a kind of "non-intentional" personal archive, and this was the source for the first work in the exhibition, seen in the entrance area, from Doubt by Water (2003-4), first shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. This is an installation of five series of six double-sided images presented on aluminium stands, which at times present a young man's face (a friend of the artist), and at others an Arctic seascape or an anonymous body of flowing water.

Water is a recurring motif in Horn's work, and reappears in Still Water (The River Thames, for Example) (1999), shown in the first room downstairs, and also occupying the last two rooms upstairs. In this, large-scale images of the surface of the River Thames in London, photographed under a cloudy sky, are juxtaposed with footnotes of journals and archive extracts from Police sources and newspapers which describe events and features which add depth and meaning to the images, imparting a rich and disquieting history.

Personal identity is engaged at the most fundamental level by the artist in two sculptures which take the form of assymetrical spheres, made of solid bronze and steel. Horn regards her aspheres as self-portraits. Appearing as dulled objects of indeterminate shape - like a 'planet', somehow flattened at the poles whose shape can only be described in terms of what it is not, they allude to the impossibility of defining who or what we are, as individuals - as unique as the asphere would appear in an ordered geometrical world.

Installed with these aspheres were two linear text works in solid aluminium and cast white plastic; Eyes in the Distance (His Mother's) (1999/2005) and Eyes in the Distance (Her's) (1999/2005). Taken from a short story by the American writer Flannery O'Connor, written in the 1950s, these texts form part of a Southern Gothic tradition that focused on the decaying South and its people. Flowing river-like, these texts are, in the artist's words, "the opposite of a punch-line in a joke".

The importance of the relationship between the viewer and the object is ever strong in Horn's work, and this is demonstrated graphically and most directly in This is Me, This is You (1999-2000). Consisting of two arrangements of forty eight pairs of colour photographs, they depict the artist's niece, Georgia Loy, photographed at different times throughout a span of three years as she moved from puberty to adolescence, revealing her spontaneity, lack of vanity and trust.

Separated by time, but imperceptibly so, the elements of the diptych Dead Owl (1997) were created by photographing a stuffed snowy owl in a remote Icelandic Hotel, which housed innumerable strange artefacts; stuffed animals, antiques and heirlooms. Photographed seconds apart, the Owl rests on a piece of found lava, whilst the grain of the bedroom wallpaper is just visible as a backdrop. This iconic image is the first in a series of 'Bird Pairs' (others are shown in the Bolzano exhibition), which are reproduced in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition. Entitled Angie and Emily Dickinson, this publication's title juxtaposes the American film actress, Angie Dickinson, who is perhaps best known for her role as a tough cop in Policewoman (1974-8), broadcast on televison when Horn was growing up, and the American Victorian poet Emily Dickinson whose writings have long been admired and occasionally used by the artist.

The image of two flowers on publicity material accompanying the exhibition and reproduced on the front cover of the publication, does not however appear in the exhibition. Singled out and cropped by Horn from images of the Garden's collection of over 20,000 species of living plants, it depicts a Himalayan Blue Poppy Meconopsis x sheldonii G. Taylor. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh played an important role in the introduction to Europe of this and associated species from the Himalayas and South-west China in the first half of the Twentieth century, and it is one of the most striking of montane plants. The colour of its flower, varying in description from vivid turquoise to pale blue, is like no other found in nature. The art of Roni Horn has just such a quality.


1. from Doubt by Water, 2003-4. 30 two-sided pigment prints in anodised aluminium stands. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth, Zurich and London.
2. from Still Water (The River Thames, for Example), 1999. Fifteen offset lithographs (photographs with text). Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.
3. Black Asphere 1986/2005. Solid Bronze. Courtesy of the artist.
4. Eyes in the Distance (His Mother's), 1999/2005. Aluminium and solid cast plastic. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth, Zurich and London.
5. This is Me, This is You (panel 1), 1999-2000. An installation of 96 C-Type prints in paired panels of 48 each. Hauser & Wirth Collection, Switzerland.
6. This is Me, This is You (panel 2) 1999-2000. As above.
7. Asphere 1986/1995. Solid steel. Courtesy of Gerry Gorovoy Collection, New York.
8. Eyes in the Distance (Her's), 1999/2005. Aluminium and solid cast plastic. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth, Zurich and London.
9. Dead Owl, 1997 Paired Iris prints. Courtesy Enea Righi Collection, Bologna and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan.

We wish to thank Roni Horn for her generous co-operation and support. The exhibition was presented in association with Hauser & Wirth, Zurich and London, and in collaboration with Museion, Bolzano, Italy, where it ran from 4 February to 30 April, 2006. An illustrated exhibition catalogue Roni Horn: Angie and Emily Dickinson - with essays by Tacita Dean and Angela Vettese, is available for £15.00.

There were gallery talks about the exhibition and the work of Roni Horn, by the Canadian-born artist Robin Arsenault on Saturday 4 and 18 March (the latter with sign language interpreter).

For further information about the exhibitions or events, please ask at the reception desk or contact Inverleith House

Roni Horn

Roni Horn: installation view, "Angie and Emily Dickinson", Inverleith House, 2006.  

Roni Horn

Roni Horn: installation view, "Angie and Emily Dickinson", Inverleith House, 2006.  

Roni Horn

Roni Horn: installation view, "Angie and Emily Dickinson", Inverleith House, 2006.  

All work courtesy of the artist and Hauser and Wirth, Zurich and London. 

Back to Top

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)