When Rebecca Horn was at the Harvard Art Museums to install and activate her Flying Books under Black Rain Painting in November 2014, a small group of students and museums staff was on hand to watch. As the painting machine’s mechanical arm sprayed black ink across the white wall and the fluttering books protruding from it, most of the audience had no idea that Horn was simultaneously creating another new work.
Mat boards on the ground underneath the painting machine captured some of the ink spray; three pieces were cut to the exact size of the three books featured in Flying Books under Black Rain Painting and given subtitles to correspond to the authors of the books: Franz Kafka, Fernando Pessoa, and James Joyce. The three-part work, titled Out of the Black Rain, was recently installed in the University Research Gallery, alongside a selection of Horn’s large-scale paintings, called Bodylandscapes, which replaced the projection of her films Performances II (1973) and Berlin Exercises: Dreaming under water of things afar (1974/5), which had been running since the exhibition opened in November.
The large paintings are displayed on a wall facing photographs of some of Horn’s wearable sculptures, or “body extensions,” which elongate, contain, or constrain the body. Like those body extensions, the three Bodylandscapes—Moon in the Vertebrae Oracle (2014), The Vertebrae Oracle for Meret (2013), and Rotation im Kreuzwind (2013), all on loan to the museums—correspond in dimension to corporeal limits and possibilities. They feature vertically applied marks in ink, acrylic, and pencil by the artist on paper, and mirror the dimensions of the artist’s own body. The shift in the emphasis of the exhibition Rebecca Horn: “Work in Progress” from film to painting thus further underscores the interconnectedness of the artist’s work in all media.
The museums’ special programming centered on Rebecca Horn complements her exhibition. While Rebecca Horn: “Work in Progress” is on view until May 10, visitors can gain an even fuller understanding of the artist’s work by attending the next two films in the museums’ Rebecca Horn film series. Buster’s Bedroom (1990) will be screened in Menschel Hall at 1pm on Sunday, March 15, and Moon Mirror Journey (2011) at 1pm on Sunday, April 26.