She does not seem to be easily moved, but she assures that when the room attendants told her that the audience at her show asked who were the people who appeared in the 15 pairs of portraits of aka , he was deeply moved. Because in those 30 images, which now open the great exhibition that the Botín Center in Santander dedicates to the New York artist Roni Horn (1955), there is only one person. She herself. Over many decades. From a polite sixties teenager with long hair silhouetted by a headband, to a serious androgynous young woman from the seventies. From delicate, red-haired Ofelia with wavy hair and silky skin, to inquisitive American textbook intellectual, glasses included. From a misty face reflected in a thermal lagoon in Iceland where she has been around so much, to images with a white T-shirt and light blue shirt in which she could pass for a man, whatever that is. “The play is about the multitude that is in each one of us,” she explains.
It is not the only one-man crowd in the show that now spans three decades of his career and is entitled hope paralyzes me . There are no less than 100 portraits of the French actress Isabelle Huppert, a hundred faces in each of which she brings to life with a single gesture one of the hundreds of characters she has played. Fifty photos against fifty others, while on the perpendicular walls are two more grids of 48 photos, this time of Horn’s niece, a girl pictured between the ages of 8 and 10 trying out a thousand identities as she grows up.
“Hope is a survival tactic, but has it become a euphemism for hopelessness?”
It is part of Horn’s encyclopedia of identities, of his work presided over by the idea of fluid, mutable identity, just like the elements with which he works so many times, the climate, the sea, the water, always mysterious, in which you never, he says, know what you’re really looking at. Or glass, sometimes liquid, other times solid. The exhibition exhibits several of his minimalist sculptures, his large cylindrical pieces of colored molten glass, enormous sized tablets, translucent at their base and sides but whose surface is transparent and crystalline like a pond and allows one to lose oneself inside.
There are also photographs of the Thames in which the hue changes so much that it looks like another river. And many drawings, some like meanders. Journeys through words, through monosyllables that, when pronounced, give rise to a syncopated and almost metallic melody. And there are humorous watercolors in which she fuses Gertrude Stein’s “a rose is a rose is a rose” with the expression “to leave smelling of roses” -in English, to get out of a situation in which a good name could have left battered– to create 48 paintings between humorous and hooligans in which the language seems not very serious and even disintegrates.
Although without a doubt the most unique work are the 406 sheets of LOG , a kind of graphic diary between 2019 and 2020 with octopuses that escape –really– from the aquarium to see the world and a lot of New York, a lot of news and a lot of humor. A phrase presides over it, “I am paralyzed by hope”, by the American comedian Maria Bamford. “Hope is, among other things, a survival tactic. The uninterrupted subtext of life, which presupposes a future. It is a manifestation of the innate impulse to continue living, breathing, moving, wanting. But hope to the point of paralysis is not hope. Has hope become a euphemism for hopelessness?” Horn wonders.