The Alchemy of Rebecca Horn: New Works at Galerie Thomas

Since the 1970s Rebecca Horn has been creating exquisite contraptions. From her body appendages to her poetry, drawings, and kinetic sculptures, Horn’s delicate constructions are like coil springs in various states of tension, suspension, and release. This month the artist unveils “Black Moon Mirror” her first solo exhibition at Galerie Thomas Modern in Munich. Throughout this beautifully threaded show Horn reprises several of her archetypal themes into startling new works. 

Upon entering the exhibition’s first gallery, Der Ast zentiert im Sonnengeflecht (2014) draws the viewer into Horn’s thorned embrace. From the center of a broken tree branch cast in bronze, an aureole of metal spires opens and closes, like flower petals, in a gesture first menacing and then sheltering. The work is an apt metaphor for the way in which the exhibition furls and unfurls. At its fragile nub lies an iteration of Gesang des Lichts (auch: Cinéma Vérité) (2005). As the viewer approaches, a copper snake flicks a black pool of water on the gallery’s floor, projecting a rippling puddle of light onto the wall.

Like the passing of a gentle shudder across the three exhibition rooms, Horn’s works resonate against and through one another. The water’s shivering reflection is captured in the crystal ball of Gold der Capuzelle (2014), which rests on half a human skull cast in bronze. Behind it, a small gold leaf supported by a fine golden filament trembles in the air. For Horn the gold leaf is a flickering soul whose light emanates and is refracted through the glass orb of the universe. 

Carnal deaths echoes in Garten, Gefangen im Ruß der Erinnerung (2014), a glass egg filled with inky soot, like ashes, resting on the open pages of Danilo Kiš’s haunting novel Garden, Ashes (1965). If the body is a vessel, then the presence here of a blue-and-green butterfly rhythmically flapping its wings is the spirit released upon expiration. In Greek mythology, the goddess Psyche was often depicted as a winged butterfly. It is this yearning for interconnectedness and metamorphosis that seems to drive much of Horn’s current exhibition, and nowhere is this more present than in her drawings. The show includes two monumental acrylic and pencil works on paper in black and blue titled Die Launischen Rüssel Winde der Paarung (2014) and Die Paarung der Wolken Tiere (2014). Here, amid a torrent of wind, Horn’s lines appear like the silhouettes of birds and splashes of paint like the sputtering of wings in the ascent of flight. Perhaps this is as good a description as any of where Horn’s works now dare to tread.

—Amanda Sarroff

Black Moon Mirror” is on view at Galerie Thomas, Munich, Nov. 21, 2014–Feb. 21, 2015.

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