New York Part One – Rebecca Horn at Sean Kelly
I’ve returned from an exciting trip to New York. Over one intensive day and one brief morning I visited 46 Galleries. The Final Tally was 19 galleries in Midtown and 27 in Chelsea. There’s no doubt that I have retained my unapologetic gluttony for aesthetic exposure. I have often likened exposing myself to so much visual stimulation to an extended inhale. Touching down in Los Angeles has allowed me to exhale and in such, digest the all-you-can-see buffet of artistic pursuits.
I have decided to wrestle this abundance of experience into multiple postings, hopefully addressing and highlighting the artistic Truffles that continue to resonate. So without further exposition I bring you to the northern most reaches of Chelsea on 29th Street and a visit to Sean Kelly Gallery. The Kelly destination always reminds me that there is burning intelligence and rigor out there in the art world. From the earlier days in Soho to their current location, Kelly has exemplified maturity so often lacking in the buzz oriented world we inhabit. I can quickly recall dozens of exhibitions I’ve seen there that linger with pleasure and contemplation. Rebecca Horn’s new multi-part installation currently on view at Sean Kelly will be one of those experiences that echos insistently in the caverns of my aesthetic Rolodex.
Rebecca Horn belongs to those, mostly european, artists who harness metaphysical and alchemical associations of material. Copper acts as electrical conduit; Charcoal acts as metaphor for heat and fragility; Gold as index for greed and wealth; and Feathers as allusions of flight, liberation and mythology. References to the corporeal body are never far and ground each sculpture and work on paper to both the limitations of human existence and its transformative potential. Highfalutin as all this may sound, it’s important to welcome metaphor into the act of seeing, especially with Horn’s elegant body of work. She practices an art of evocation rather than illustration, all laced with text-based myth which further mystifies and confounds. To some, this may all be either intimidating and alienating. For me however, Horn activates the lover of poetry and allusion in me.
The pieces on display range from large-scale paintings on paper in watercolor-like acrylic to mechanized sculptures. The painting’s gestures and mark making contain velocity and delicate intention. Hung low to the gallery floor, they index the outer reaches of a figure with outstretched arms. An early sculpture contains an aggregate of charcoal which repetitively gets chipped by a mechanical hammer. The charcoal dust and chips fall on a gold bullion mounted below. And in the main gallery there is a kudzu tangle of copper tubes extending into every direction imaginable. Mechanical beaks snap at gold leaf, a mirror rotates and the branches shiver with predatory glee.
Lastly, Horn’s elegant feather sculpture, installed in the offices and titled Zen of Ara from 2011 reminded me of Santiago Calatrava feather-like paradigms in architecture. I visited the Milwaukee museum in 2004 and failed to make the synaptic leap but contemplating and remembering the several unfurling bird like sculptures from Horn over three decades the graceful artistic DNA relationship snapped into focus.
More thoughts on other NYC truffles in the next post. Stay Turned! Rebecca Horn at Sean Kelly continues till December 3rd, 2011.
–Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, November 21st, 2011
(Images illustrating this exhibition courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery)