Artist conveys Iceland's connection to her 'Inner' self

February 26, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

New York-based conceptual artist Roni Horn, best known for her installations, in recent years has also published books based on the trips she's made to Iceland since 1975. These books, together with a set of drawings she made in Iceland a dozen years ago, form a small but effective exhibit called "Roni Horn: Inner Geography" at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Horn obviously has a deep and abiding sense of identity with Iceland, an island country whose treeless, icy landscape is covered with lava from still-active volcanoes. But in her works related to this land, which include photographs and a series of brief essays, she does not attempt to persuade.

Rather, she simply presents.

"Bluff Life," the first of four books included in the ongoing series, reproduces a set of 13 crayon, graphite and watercolor drawings the artist made during a stay at a remote lighthouse in 1982. The exhibit includes both the book and the original drawings. These little works are completely abstract, yet they do convey a sense of response to place, especially to light and to the relationships -- between stillness and motion in the interactions of land, water and air.

In subsequent volumes -- "Folds," "Lava" and "Pooling Waters" -- Horn records in photographs selected aspects of her surroundings: the irregular circles of sheepfolds that punctuate the landscape; the often fragile-looking and very beautiful textures of rocks made of lava; and the country's many pools of naturally hot water.

And there are the essays, in which Horn records both experiences and ruminations on experiences, in simple and frequently quite powerful language.

Horn's work has often had to do with perception -- how we perceive things, and how our perception of things changes as our relationship to them changes. In these words and images, she presents bits and pieces of her perceptions of Iceland. They don't mean much at first, but gradually you come to a kind of

understanding -- not of Iceland, or of Horn, but of the relationship between the two. The show offers a quiet kind of experience, but one that builds, until ultimately you feel fulfilled by it.

ART REVIEW

What: "Roni Horn: Inner Geography"

Where: The Baltimore Museum of Art, Art Museum Drive

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through April 17

Admission: $5.50 adults, $3.50 seniors and students, $1.50 ages 7 to 18, free on Thursdays

Call: (410) 396-7100

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