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Two Objects That Are One Object: Roni Horn's Androgynous Minimalism


In 1988, Donald Judd acquired a work of art by Roni Horn (b. 1955) and permanently installed it at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX. The work in question, titled Pair Object VII: (For a Here and a There), consists of two solid copper forms, precisely machined to mechanical identity. Invoking both serial repetition and an extreme reduction of form, not to mention procedures of industrial fabrication, Pair Object VII unambiguously adopts the formal language of minimalism. Yet, Horn describes her work as a "criticism of minimalism." What is the nature of this critique?

In the following paper, I argue that it is specifically the pair that troubles the foundations of minimalism and its predominant strategies. In particular, I examine Horn's work vis-à-vis Judd's seriality and Robert Morris' gestalt forms, claiming in both cases that the pair, as a structure and as a logic, critiques each on its own terms. From here, I go on to suggest that Horn's Pair Objects are also the site of the artist's early conceptualization of androgyny, which will explicitly emerge as a theoretical preoccupation of hers in the late 1990s. If the pair stages a structural critique of minimalism, and if, for Horn, the pair bears a structural affinity with androgyny, what would it mean, this paper asks, for minimalism to undergo a critique not only by a pair object but by an androgynous one? In response to such a provocation, the issue of identity will arise as a central problem in what follows--specifically, the exclusive and fixed identities of the minimalist object and the minimalist subject. If androgyny ultimately expands the possibilities of identity beyond its stable, gendered binary, Horn's paired works propose the untenability of the fixed binaries on which minimalism historically staked its own critique.

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