Measuring just over 100th of a millimeter in depth, Roni Horn’s rectangular sheet of pure, annealed gold is a nearly volumeless sculpture. Unadorned and set directly on the floor without a pedestal, it is in fact not so much a sculpture as the material of gold itself—“the simple physical reality” of the stuff, in the artist’s words. The daughter of a pawnbroker, Horn has been fascinated with gold since her childhood, specifically with how it has been invested with so many layers of mythological and economic significance. In Gold Field, she sought to strip away these cultural associations to allow viewers to experience the material unmediated, as a visual and tactile thing. That is not to say, however, that the work precludes metaphorical readings. Rather, as fellow artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres observed, it is “waiting for the right viewer willing and needing to be moved to a place of the imagination.” For Gonzalez-Torres, who first encountered Gold Field at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 1990, at a time when his lover Ross was dying of AIDS and amid what he perceived to be an almost hopeless social and political climate, the piece had a deeply personal resonance: it represented “a new landscape, a possible horizon, a place of rest and absolute beauty . . . a place to dream, to regain energy, to dare.”¹
1. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “1990: L.A, ‘The Gold Field’,” in Earths Grow Thick: Roni Horn, exh. cat. (Columbus, Ohio: Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, 1996), p. 68.