Horses and humans have walked hand in hoof for a very long time, at least back to the Paleolithic age, when horses were the dominant subject of the cave paintings at Lascaux. Those wall paintings, 16,000 or 17,000 years old, still convey a startlingly direct energy and primal power, and they were only a beginning: Artists have been fascinated by the anatomical and mythical presence of the horse ever since.
A little anatomy (a fine collotype print of Eadweard Muybridge's landmark 1887 series "Animal Locomotion" is on hand to establish the scientific verities) and a lot of myth are at play in the group show "Equine" at Froelick Gallery, which continues through July 16 and includes 51 works by 33 artists, most from the Northwest.
The work is mostly contemporary, with stylistic throwbacks. A couple of charming, frisky small etchings by Patricia Giraud -- one of a head, the other of an upside-down horse rolling in nonexistent grass -- hark back to the lively meticulousness of old-master drawings. Wit shows up, too, particularly in Mimi Plumb's pair of large close-up photo prints that create landscapes from a horse's back and mane.
Susan Seubert's small ambrotype "Bridle, Blinders" is a good example of her time-distorting experiments with old photographic techniques: You have to look past its antique dimness to discover its contemporary heart. And Wendy Given's large oval photo of a horse in a fog-shrouded field continues her fascination with nature and mysticism.
Horses spark stories in the human imagination, and some of the best pieces in "Equine" could be illustrations from a well-printed novel: They suggest captured tensions, frozen moments of drama in a continuing story.
In Miles Cleveland Goodwin's painting "Death Quit," the Grim Reaper drops his scythe and rushes past a horse sitting in the snow. A rider leans forward in Matthew Dennison's "Blue Horse" and embarks on an urgent ride. Laura Ross-Paul's "Starbuck" is a small dark drama: a man, under a looming sky, gazes anxiously into his cellphone as a horse looks down from a nearby hill. A Gabriel Liston painting shows a girl leading a reluctant horse by rope through a night wood toward ... what? These are pieces of untold stories, charged with possibility.
Perhaps the best finds are a pair of black-and-white lithos and a colored drawing from 1953 by Tom Hardy, now a grand old man of Oregon art but at the time a rising young artist in his early 30s. His works here share the love of line and action that distinguished so much art from the 1930s through the '50s, when figuration was easing toward abstraction.
One litho, based on Robinson Jeffers' savage narrative poem "Roan Stallion," stands out. The brisk powerful strokes. The hooves kicking, the mean drunk underfoot, the woman with the rifle by the fence, the boy at her side. Small, swift, brutal, remarkable. Essence of story, essence of horse.
-- Bob HicksSource Link: More information