Roni Horn:
Give Me Paradox or Give Me Death

March 23 – Au­gust 11, 2024

Mu­se­um Lud­wig is pleased to pre­sent Roni Horn: Give Me Para­dox or Give Me Death, a so­lo ex­hi­bi­tion of works by in­flu­en­tial Amer­i­can artist Roni Horn. The ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes over 100 works, span­n­ing from the be­gin­n­ing of the artist’s de­cades long ca­reer to pre­sent day.

Roni Horn's work spans from pho­tog­ra­phy to draw­ing, artist books, sculp­ture, and in­s­tal­la­tion. Be­hind this open­ness lies the artist's un­der­s­tand­ing that ev­ery­thing in the world is mutable and can­not be sub­ject­ed to fixed at­tri­bu­tion. The ex­hi­bi­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig ex­amines this idea through three re­cur­ring themes in Horn's work: na­ture, iden­ti­ty, and lan­guage.

The ti­tle of the ex­hi­bi­tion is de­rived from a quote by Pa­trick Hen­ry, an ad­vo­cate for Amer­i­can in­de­pen­dence in the eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry, who con­clud­ed a speech with the words, “Give me lib­er­ty or give me death!” Roni Horn is more in­ter­est­ed in the vi­su­al pow­er of the quote than its orig­i­nal con­text; in her adap­ta­tion of the struc­ture of Hen­ry’s fa­mous ex­cla­ma­tion, she sub­sti­tutes the word "para­dox" for "lib­er­ty", thus equ­at­ing the mean­ings of both terms. For Horn, para­dox­es are a way to ac­cess am­bi­gu­i­ty, a qual­i­ty in which things may con­tain their op­po­sites.

Up­on en­ter­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion, view­ers are greet­ed by This is Me, This is You (1997-2000), a pho­to­graph­ic work in­s­talled on two op­pos­ing walls. Each wall con­tains 48 framed pho­to­graphs of the artist’s niece, which were tak­en over a two-year pe­ri­od dur­ing her ado­les­cence. Ev­ery pho­to­graph cor­re­sponds with one on the op­pos­ing wall, show­ing sub­tle changes be­tween split se­conds. As she ex­plains in a 1989 in­ter­view, “The pair form, by virtue of the con­di­tion of be­ing dou­ble, ac­tive­ly re­fus­es the pos­si­bil­i­ty of be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced as a thing in it­self.” Here, Horn not on­ly em­ploys dou­bles or pairs, but al­so speaks to iden­ti­ty’s con­s­tant flux.

Yil­maz Dziewior, cu­ra­tor of the ex­hi­bi­tion, com­ments, “Roni Horn be­gan ex­plor­ing fluid rep­re­sen­ta­tions of gen­der long be­fore terms such as 'gen­derqueer' and 'non­bi­nary' en­tered public dis­course. In her (self-)por­traits, you see a per­son who fluc­tu­ates be­tween gen­ders with­out need­ing to find a spe­cif­ic term to de­scribe this mode of be­ing. She shows hu­mans as or­ganisms con­s­tant­ly man­i­fest­ing them­selves in a state of per­pe­t­u­al trans­for­ma­tion. While ex­treme­ly pre­cise and high­ly aes­thet­ic, her ob­jects, pho­to­graphs, and draw­ings have a lib­er­at­ing and eman­ci­pa­to­ry po­ten­tial be­cause they are of­ten in­tan­gi­ble and in­de­fin­able.”

Mov­ing through the ex­hi­bi­tion, view­ers will en­coun­ter nev­er be­fore ex­hibit­ed draw­ings from the late 1970s, in ad­di­tion to a se­lec­tion of pig­ment draw­ings pro­duced be­tween 1983 and 2018. Pho­to­graph­ic works on view in­clude the sem­i­nal work Still Wa­ter (The Riv­er Thames, for Ex­am­ple) (1999), com­prised of 15 pho­to­graphs which act as a por­trait of the Riv­er Thames in South­ern Eng­land; a.k.a. (2008-09), which de­picts the artist at dif­fer­ent mo­ments through­out her life, and Por­trait of an Im­age (with Is­a­belle Hup­pert) (2005-06), where Horn has pho­to­graphed ac­tress Is­a­belle Hup­pert pos­ing as char­ac­ters from her films.

Sculp­tures in the ex­hi­bi­tion in­clude works from the se­ries When Dickin­son Shut Her Eyes (1993-2008), where Horn has re­cre­at­ed po­ems by Emi­ly Dickin­son; Gold Field (1980/1994), a work com­posed of 99.99% gold foil; and Un­ti­tled (“The tini­est piece of mir­ror is al­ways the whole mir­ror.”) (2022), a ten-unit solid cast glass work that re­flects its sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

➤ You can find the ex­hi­bi­­tion book­let here: in En­glish / in Ger­man

About Roni Horn:

Roni Horn was born in New York in 1955. She gra­d­u­at­ed from the Rhode Is­land School of De­sign in 1975. In 1978, Horn gra­d­u­at­ed with a mas­ter’s de­gree in sculp­ture from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty. Her oeu­vre fo­cus­es on con­cep­tu­al­ly ori­ent­ed pho­tog­ra­phy, sculp­ture, draw­ing, and books. Since 1975, Horn has trav­eled ex­ten­sive­ly in the more re­mote land­s­capes of Ice­land. Th­ese sol­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ences have long been im­por­tant in­flu­ences in her life and work. Lit­er­a­ture and Horn’s prodi­gious read­ing have had a sim­i­lar­ly pro­found im­pact on her work across vari­ous me­dia.

Re­cent so­lo ex­hi­bi­tions in­clude: Tate Mod­ern, Lon­don; Whit­ney Mu­se­um of Amer­i­can Art, New York; Cen­tre Pompi­dou, Paris; Kun­sthaus Bre­genz, Aus­tria; Kun­sthalle Ham­burg, Ger­many; Kun­sthalle Basel, Switz­er­land; Fun­da­ció Joan Miro, Barcelo­na; De Pont Foun­da­tion, Til­burg, The Nether­lands; Fon­da­tion Beyel­er, Rie­hen, Switz­er­land; Glen­s­tone Mu­se­um, Po­to­mac, MD; Pi­nakothek der Mod­erne, Mu­nich; Me­nil Draw­ing In­sti­tute, Hous­ton, TX; Po­la Mu­se­um of Art, Hakone, Ja­pan; Bourse de Com­merce – Pi­nault Col­lec­tion, Paris; Wins­ing Arts Foun­da­tion, Taipeh; Cen­tro Botín, San­tan­der, Spain; He Art Mu­se­um, Guang­dong, Chi­na. This year, in ad­di­tion to the ex­hi­bi­tion at Mu­se­um Lud­wig, Horn will have a ma­jor so­lo show at the Louisia­na Mu­se­um of Modere Art in Hum­le­bæk, Den­mark.

Cu­ra­tor: Dr. Yil­maz Dziewior

Cu­ra­to­rial As­sis­tants: Ker­stin Renerig, Leonore Spe­mann

The ex­hi­bi­tion is fund­ed by the Min­istry of Cul­ture and Sci­ence of the Ger­man State of North Rine-West­phalia. It is al­so gener­ous­ly sup­port­ed by the Peter and Irene Lud­wig Foun­da­tion. The REWE Group and Russ­me­dia are spon­sor­ing it as Su­pe­ri­or Part­n­ers. Ad­di­tio­n­al­ly, the ex­hi­bi­tion is gener­ous­ly sup­port­ed by the Ge­sellschaft für Mod­erne Kunst am Mu­se­um Lud­wig e.V., Haus­er & Wirth, the Glen­s­tone Foun­da­tion, the Kuk­je Art and Cul­ture Foun­da­tion and the Gal­le­ria Raf­fael­la Cortese with Mar­co Ros­si & Enea Righi, as well as Xavi­er Hufkens. The ex­hi­bi­tion is an of­fi­cial pro­gram part­n­er of the NRW-USA Year of the State Chan­cellery of North Rine-West­phalia. We would like to thank the Mu­se­um Lud­wig's in­no­va­tion part­n­er RI­MOWA. The me­dia part­n­er of the ex­hi­bi­tion is Arte.

Fund­ed by

In­no­va­tion part­n­er

Me­dia co­op­er­a­tion

Part of the NRW-USA year