By Jason Farago
Portrait by George Bamford, part of his "Young Guns" series
“I’m not a traditional studio artist at all,” Hornby says. “I never have ideas in the studio. The ideas happen on the bicycle, on the way to the V&A, on the Tube… All the ideas come out of conversation, which get researched and developed on the laptop, which then get fabricated.”
Many of the most ambitious sculptures are constructed in Pietrasanta, Italy, at a state-of-the-art shipyard that normally produces yachts. “Each sculpture is the product of years of research, but when it arrives in my studio, I see it for the first time the same way a viewer does,” he says. “I get to judge my work like a critic.”
Hornby’s art has been exhibited everywhere from Eyebeam in New York to the Institute of Contemporary Indian Art in Mumbai, but his newest project -- and perhaps his most impressive -- is closer to home. This June, in London’s King’s Cross, a once grotty neighborhood that’s now home to The Guardian and the Eurostar, he’s installing a 13-foot permanent bronze sculpture in which Michelangelo’s David converges into a precarious conical form. David has a special place in Hornby’s artistic formation: There’s a plaster cast copy in London, although the stud’s genitals were covered by a fig leaf at the command of a flustered Queen Victoria. Hornby’s reinterpretation of Michelangelo’s masterpiece takes the outline of that David, tilts it to the sky, and extrudes it down to a single, infinitesimal point.
It’s a major creative challenge for him, but a practical one, too. The work, situated at one of the city’s busiest intersections, must be able to survive rain, wind, vandalism, and the odd traffic disaster. “It has to withstand a car driving into it,” he says. “It has to stand up. So I’m still dealing with the same problem as when I was working with clay back in the day.”