A new exhibition at the Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection brings together the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996) and Roni Horn (b. 1955), two artists who, at first glance, would seem to have little in common except being openly gay. What they share is an approach to the exhibition as “an experience that brings the viewer into a new relationship with the work and the institution,” according to the show’s curator, which allows for endless dispositions of their works.
A piece by Gonzalez-Torres, for example, a simple curtain of plastic beads, one of many he made, takes on new meaning depending on where and how it is hung. When I saw a golden version of it at the light-filled Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland in an exhibition of Gonzalez-Torres’s work in 2010, it created a visual shock with Giacometti’s “Walking Man” in full stride behind it. For the artist himself, who died at the age of 38 of AIDS, these curtains had a personal and political meaning relating to the disease, expressed in such titles as “Untitled” (Chemo)” and “Untitled” (Blood).”
The latter, on show in the Bourse de Commerce exhibition, creates a similar shock effect. The first room of the show (see photo at top of page) is breathtakingly beautiful, with the light from the huge windows in the high-ceilinged room illuminating works by both artists. Its peaceful, meditative atmosphere makes you want to stay there. Among a few other works, Gonzalez-Torres’s strings of lightbulbs, “Untitled (For Stockholm)” hang from the ceiling, while Horn’s “Well and Truly” (2009-10), a series of 10 round, pale-blue glass blocks that appear to be full of water stand here and there on the floor, inducing the same feeling of quiet pleasure as a real body of water does.
Hovering in the back of the room, however, is the implied menace of the blood-red bead curtain, through which the visitor must pass to enter the next room. (Gonzalez-Torres stipulated that these curtains must always be hung in such a way that visitors are obliged to pass through them.)
The political aspects of these often poetic and beautiful works by the two artists, friends who admired each other’s work and carried on a dialogue about it, are subtly expressed, as in the red curtain. One work by Horn here, for example, “a.k.a.” (2008-09) questions the identity of a single individual. It consists of 30 photographs of herself, taken at different ages and arranged in pairs, showing the many faces she has had in her life. “The mutable version of identity is not an aberration,” she says. “The fixed version is the aberration.”
Before you leave the Bourse, pay a visit to the Charles Ray exhibition if you haven’t seen it yet (or even if you have). And don’t miss the recently installed “Opera (QM.15), 2016, by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. Visitors enter a dark space and advance slowly toward the song and sight of Maria Callas, channeled by Gonzalez-Foerster, in her iconic red dress, in a video that creates a haunting experience.Favorite