American artist Roni Horn concludes 2017’s Artists Select series with an insightful examination of Still’s paintings from the mid-1940s to the end of his career. Horn’s installation will occupy four tall galleries beneath our signature teardrop ceiling in the Museum’s Lanny and Sharon Martin Galleries on the upper level.
Like many artists working today, in her own work Horn uses formats from recent art history, such as minimalist forms, floor orientation, and interdisciplinary media, to create a new art that is steeped in personal experience, memory, and the interaction with art in the here-and-now. Her sculptures appear as intense distillations of ideas and sensations from nature. Her practice is also active in photography and language, with many of her works appropriating others’ writings, including poems and letters by Emily Dickinson, whom Horn admires for her ability to draw attention to, as she puts it, a “heightened sensibility” and a “sensitivity to visible and invisible events.”
Horn’s installation includes several works never exhibited in Still’s lifetime or since, and represents—in a manner that becomes increasingly apparent as her installation unfolds—Horn’s unique visual sensibility.
Clyfford Still’s daughters, Sandra and Diane, recall hearing the sounds of the palette knife scraping and scratching the canvas in the night as they lay in bed. They were sounds that went on throughout the night. Perhaps its regularity made it easier to sleep? Or the intensity of it kept them awake? Underlying this memory is the energy experienced in that domestic darkness; the energy of action sustained and sustained throughout the night, and night after night. Sliding, pushing, wiping, scraping, troweling thick masses of paint against and across the canvas. The energy to scale large spaces and strokes of great reach. The energy that resists and that limits control and goes hand-in-hand with these tools and actions. It’s the energy that’s palpable in all of Still’s mature work.
Each canvas is a terrain where the painted and the unpainted merge. Each painting is a place that presents its source without revealing it. Color is critical but nominal. No image, subject, or thing emerges. Each painting is an event. It includes you. You are witness and potential proof.
May 22, 2017