Timothy Horn: Bitter Suite

Exhibition dates: June 14–October 12, 2008

San Francisco, April 2008—Australian artist Timothy Horn plays with sugar, scale, and the legend of Alma Spreckels in his reinterpretation of historical decorative arts from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. As part of the Collections Connections series, Horn uses the European decorative arts collections as the inspiration for three large-scale works in Timothy Horn: Bitter Suite, on view from June 14 to October 12, 2008, at the de Young Museum. Horn relates, “The stories surrounding Alma were the sparks that ignited ideas for the work I’ve gone on to make.” Alma le Normand de Bretteville Spreckels was the widow of the millionaire sugar baron, Adolph Spreckels, and founder of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor.

Certainly one of the favorite stories of the matriarchal “Big Alma” is about the gilded Neapolitan sedan chair she used as a telephone booth in her Pacific Heights mansion. Horn morphed the sedan chair into a stately carriage fit for a diminutive Cinderella. Encrusted in crystallized rock sugar, it is titled Mother-Load. More crystallized sugar is utilized in Diadem (light heavyweight), a 300-pound jeweled crown of a chandelier inspired by an 18th-century, rock crystal chandelier installed in the Louis XV room at the Legion of Honor. The final piece in the exhibition, Sweet Thing, draws from the collection of Chinese porcelain vases, mounted in French gilt bronze. Sweet Thing has nine mirrored blown glass elements, sprouting from an espaliered, nickel-plated, bronze framework. Except for the fact that it measures 50 x 36 inches, Sweet Thing closely resembles an 18th-century girandole drop earring.

Decorative arts have always inspired Horn. His work examines the relationship between personal items and the body and the point at which beauty morphs into vulgarity. He states, “My precise interest is the intersection between beauty and grotesque, perfection versus vulgarity.” Horn was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1964. He studied glass and sculpture at the Canberra School of Art before receiving his MFA at the Massachusetts College of Art in 2004.

Collection Connections
Collection Connections is a series that presents new works that aim to reinterpret traditional objects from the FAMSF permanent collections. The contemporary artists working in this space create installations that transform the conventional experience of museum visitors. For each project, artist and curator draw inspiration from the permanent collection, offering nontraditional connections that provide visual and educational opportunities to explain, interpret, and recontextualize the art objects on display throughout the museum. Through these projects, visitors are given a window into the ways that artists and cultural institutions construct and disseminate knowledge about historical understanding and current attitudes.

Collection Connections is generously funded by the Annenberg Foundation. The series is part of FAMSF’s Cultural Encounters initiative designed to attract new and diverse audiences to the Museum. Martin Chapman, curator of European decorative arts and sculpture, is the curator of Timothy Horn: Bitter Suite.

This exhibition is funded in part through a grant from the Australia Council.

de Young Visitor Information
The de Young Museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and located in Golden Gate Park, showcases American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, international textile arts and costumes, and art from the Americas, the Pacific, and Africa.

Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118

Tuesday–Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 9:30 am–5:15 pm. Friday 9:30 am–8:45 pm. Closed on Monday. Café open 9:30 am–4:30 pm; dinner menu served on Fridays 6–8 pm.

$10 adults; $7 seniors; $6 youths 13–17 and students with college I.D.

Members and children under 12 are free. The first Tuesday of every month is free.