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John Groo, Brandon Walsh & Stephen Hanyes

[ horsePLAY ]


September 26 to November 13 1999
Gala Opening
Sunday, September 26 3:30 - 5:30 pm

Live Music by the O-Tones!

Reviews:  More to be added soon.

Horseing Around At Real Art Ways

By MATTHEW DAMSKER Special to the Courant

Yeah, yeah, we know: A horse is a horse, of course, of course. A rose is a rose is a rose. And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. In other words, things are often no more, and often less, than they seem. Happily, that's not the case With "horsePLAY," the latest exhibition at - Hartford's Real Art Ways, which proceeds from a seemingly whimsical premise - gathering art keyed to the equine - and manages to make something bigger and better out of the whole multimedia mishmash.

The focus on horse imagery by a wide range of edgy contemporary artists quickly points us toward issues of power, obsession and sexuality, but never strays too far from the realm of human self-amusement.

Consider the video installation by Lucy Gunning, who offers a sequence of grown women who have a remarkable flair for imitating horses' snorts, whinnies, gallopings and prancings about. The result is a compelling meditation on the way a schoolgirl might assume genderless power via the equine, but it's also a celebration of sheer horsey love. Likewise, Mike Ballou's collaged horse toys - small objects mutated from various toy horse parts - are winsome and obsessive, slapdash and totemic at the same time.

Then there's Patty Cronin's walkthrough "Tack Room," with its deceptively typical barnyard collection of bridles, saddles and equine accoutrements. On closer inspection, it becomes a shrine to horsedom that suggests a certain pornography, with its pasted up covers of "Stud" and other equine magazines that rub our noses in the scent and substance of animal sexuality. Cronin's other contribution, a series of oval horse portraits on homey wallpaper, mixes light postmodern irony with equine iconography.

Janet Biggs goes further, conceptually, with a video installation that features galloping horses on two walls and the video image of a seated woman on the wall between. Entitled "BuSpar" - the brand name of an anti-anxiety drug prescribed for both horses and people - the piece mixes the static and active with disturbing power, evoking tightly wound human anxiety and animal release, bringing together inchoate feelings with a matterof-factness that is truly surreal, Biggs' other piece, a large photograph of a young equestrienne in her roomful of prize ribbons and regalia, is at once cool and highly charged.

Less charged, perhaps, are the images that use horses as props more so than integral metaphors. A painting by Alex Katz, "Jean on Horse," is a typically bland-pop contemplation of Long Island gentry. And Rich McLean's photo-realistic horse painting, "Lynne's Brymar Shanty Town," is ultimately about sheer visual information.

More pointed are Richard Prince's appropriated Western paintings that utilize Marlboro man imagery, while Scandinavian artist and self-portraitist Risk Hazekamp appropriates Prince's appropriations, imposing the icy glamour of her own cowgirl-styled and nude presence to turn Western motifs into satiric suggestions of desire and detachment.

There's even a brace of paintings by Mark Wallinger, one of the hot YBAs, or Young British Artists, now making waves at the controversial "Sensation' show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Wallinger's "Sir Raymond Brown" and "Lady Brown" are identical paintings of empty jockey uniforms, cleverly emphasizing the classism of British culture. Even more playful is Jason Rhoades' "steer" for roping - a contraption that features steer horns mounted on a motor scooter

Ride 'em cowboy, indeed. Sue Williams's sketchy paintings of splayed horse limbs; and hindquarters reek of sexual obsessiveness, while the capstone of the show may well be the small drawing by Paul Cadmus - a homoerotic image of young men toweling off that has nothing equine about it other than its title, "Horseplay."

New Art Examiner


It doesn’t take a large animal veterinarian to asses the virility of horsePLAY, an exhibition showcasing art inspired by horses. Featuring the work of seventeen artists, the exhibition does not present the horse as the star of the show, but rather as a catalyst for an array of work that reveals the equine’s prevalence in a number of guises, ranging from luxurious pet and plaything to an American symbol of robust sexuality.

Although not indigenous to the United States, several works suggest that the horse has become symbolic of the wild romantic spirit of America, specifically the American West, due mainly to the heroic stature appointed to cowboys through classic Westerns and epic-scale cigarette advertisements. This provocative allure of the cowboy spurs an 1997 installation by the Dutch artist Risk Hazekamp featuring a large color photograph and 93-second video loop. In the photograph, the recumbent artist is dressed like an American cowgirl (red-and-white checked shirt, dark blue jeans, and cowboy boots) and faces an image of a reclining cowboy (seemingly thrown from a horse), which hangs seductively over her bed. The cowboy appears to be looking at her, and she in turn is looking over her shoulder gazing at the viewer, unashamed of their quasi-coital positions. The voyeuristic element is highlighted in the video which slowly pans her clothed body.

Another remarkable work is Patricia Cronin’s “Tack Room” (1998), a convincing presentation of a horse owner’s privte sanctuary, which engulfs the viewer (and in this case, the smeller) with the evocative scents of straw, leather, and fresh lumber. Measuring ten feet by ten feet, the barn-like space is obsessively, albeit neatly, filled with horse-related -- and somewhat kinky -- gear such as saddles, bridles, riding crops, blankets, ribbons, and leather boots. Throughout the space there is a distinct air of female homoeroticism (the wood sign over the door reads HORSE / LOVER) and the walls are covered with images of beautiful women and horses carefully clipped from equestrian fashion magazines. There are also photographs of friends and paintings of horses. The shelves are crammed with horse grooming products, tonics and ointments, as well as videos and books featuring horses. Phone numbers and playful graffiti (“I LUV KATIE”) are scrawled on the fresh timber lending a keen sense of authenticity.

Both entertaining and slightly disturbing is Lucy Gunning’s video “The Horse Impressionists” (1994), a compilation of five women performing solo renditions of horse sounds, mainly whinnies and snorts, often accompanied with exacting horse-like movements. The women answered an advertisement for their talent in the classifieds of the New York Times. There is a wonderful (and somewhat humorous) tension between the documentary-style of the recording and somewhat absurd behavior being genuinely performed. nonetheless, the sheer virtuosity and child-like glee of the performances reveal the woman’s fervor, and more likely lifelong obsessions, for horses.

David D. J. Rau is the Director of Education & Outreach at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

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