Hayward Gallery

Rebecca Horn

26 May - 29 Aug 2005

Bodylandscapes: Drawings, sculptures, installations 1964-2004
Hayward Gallery, South Bank Centre
26 May – 29 August 2005

One of the most respected figures in contemporary art, Rebecca Horn (b. 1944) - sculptor, painter, poet and filmmaker - has shown widely across the globe. This is the first exhibition to demonstrate the pivotal role of drawing in her practice, from the early schematic drawings for performances to the recent large-scale gestural abstractions. Horn focuses on the body - its relationship with nature and the machine, its sensory awareness, frailty and desire - tapping into the world of metaphor, legend and alchemy. Bodylandscapes brings together work across all media, from the start of Horn’s career in the late 1960s through to the present day, including two spectacular new light and sound installations.

Placing an emphasis on the diversity of Horn’s work, Bodylandscapes highlights the interplay between drawings and sculpture throughout her career. With almost 80 works on paper and some 25 key sculptures and installations, the exhibition explores how Horn’s experiences of the body have continued to shape her work.

Bodylandscapes opens with a large selection of early drawings which map out her ideas for the performances of the early 1970s. Placed alongside the corresponding body sculptures used by the performers, these drawings - including Unicorn (1970) and Fingergloves (1972) - make evident the tremendous intensity employed by Horn in creating the aesthetic form of the performance, films of which are screened elsewhere in the exhibition. Other diagrammatic works also demonstrate vividly the importance of drawing in the development of Horn’s feature films, such as Der Eintänzer (1978).

Horn’s keen awareness of form, her powers of spatial imagination and poetic expressiveness come to the fore in the kinetic sculptures she has created over the past two decades. Works such as The Raven’s Twin (1997), Book of Ashes (2002) and Knuggle Dome for James Joyce (2004) are both beautiful and disturbing, drawing shocking effects from commonplace objects that are charged with emotion. In two of her most recent installations, Light imprisoned in the belly of the whale (2002-2005) and Cinema Verité (2005), Horn works closely with the young New Zealand composer Hayden Chisholm, whose evocative soundtrack is used alongside light and water to create an intensely contemplative experience.

Key to the exhibition is a series of recent large drawings, whose dimensions are determined by the physical reach of the artist as she stands before a sheet of paper. Here, as in the early performances, the body presents itself, yet instead of being the object of manipulative interventions, it acts freely and with self-determination. Bringing her entire physicality to bear, drawings such as On the Cross (2004) vividly effect through expressive gestures a harmony between sensuality and spirituality, offhandedness and severity that unites much of Horn’s work.


Image by Rebecca Horn 'Pencil Mask' 1972, Tate, London
© the artist/ DACS 2005

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