W Magazine is special among fashion magazines (although most of them have something unique that attracts me to them). There is an annual, tastefully assembled Art Issue, and this year's November issue is dense with art commissioned for the magazine and articles about lots of artists with major exhibitions and projects coming up right now.
If you haven't seen it or haven't seen particularly the article by Julie L. Belcove about Roni Horn, then perhaps you got a chance to read Roberta Smith's New York Times review of Horn's Whitney exhibition (and in many ways, her review of the piece in W). This all coincides with "Roni Horn a.k.a Roni Horn" at the Whitney Museum of American Art, a two floor mid-career retrospective that continues through January 24th. I look forward to seeing this exhibition in December and writing about it somewhere after the fact.
Of special interest to Smith, the striking start of the W piece, that was the talk of several conversations at openings here and there this weekend, is a portrait of Horn by her professed pal Juergen Teller. She sits casually on a New York rooftop in ordinary jeans, one foot in a cast, and pouring herself a class of red wine. She sports a black blazer that is open across her bare torso, voluptuous stomach and breasts revealed. Her (? Horn is masterfully androgynous) skin is fair and pale; she is not skinny. And this image has haunted me all weekend.
Teller, well known for his glamorous, washed out photographs used in advertising for Marc Jacobs, is plainly skilled at composing casual, decadent, thin images where nothing is fully saturated and the white and the light of our real environments are represented by the kind of haze he catches within the frame. I love his photographs; when i make photographs, i imitate his work.
But his is not the cause of my envy as much as Roni Horn herself. The simple red wine, the humanity of her cast. She may conform closer to traditional associations with "masculine" aesthetics than i am even capable of. But it is not that she appears mannish here; she is obviously a woman. Rather, she wavers in a sensual, non-specific place that i long for in art and find as a revelation to see so effectively presented upon (or 'from out of) the body of a person itself.
In light of questions raised in another recent Times' article about the blurring of traditional gender representation in student-aged individuals, I think Horn is demonstrative of a better way (i.e. better than the flawed and obviously incomplete strategy of dualities in identity).
in one of my places of employ, we have recently been instructed thus: "If any person is not in the correct restroom (physiology, not clothing determines this), please try to identify the individual and call security immediately." i have been concerned about this, worried about the implications it might suggest about the autonomy of the individual. as very little about our physiology is absolutely consistent with gender except for genitalia, i wonder if there is subtext about extreme tactics to reaffirm biological gender. there is a politics to what might seem like a simple order. i think, were she wearing a shirt like she does in other situations aside from this Teller portrait, Roni Horn would be thought of as a man and may even be pointed out to security were she to enter a women's restroom.
i've intentionally left the image out of this post. i want you to find it among the pages of W. and then find yourself in thought.