March 18 – April 14, 2016
The current exhibition in the Mikhail Zakin Gallery explores the role of subject matter in contemporary art. In 2014, the exhibition Lay of the Land explored landscape as subject. In Animalia, the Mikhail Zakin Gallery exhibits work by five contemporary artists that explore animals as a subject while expressing more elusive elements of our own human nature. Works on view in this exhibition evoke literal and metaphorical meaning by elucidating animal nature and bringing us closer to our own.
“Animalia” is a made-up word to describe the human impulse to represent animals in art. In the
graphic poster by The Beehive Design Collective, centuries of history are distilled into a single image that depicts indigenous species of animals and insects to portray the struggle for land rights in Mesoamerica. In mixed media paintings by Jane Dell, animals appear as if in a vision to tell a chaotic, expressive story. The dreamlike quality is evoked through watery application of pigment to Mylar.
Steel horse sculptures by Adrian Landon, including the life-size horse sculpture in welded steel on the front lawn of the Art School, recognize horses for their contribution to human culture and civilization. At the same time, their strength is far beyond human, and we are met with wonder at how humans ever managed to harness the power of these powerful creatures. In realistic oil paintings by Sarah Smith, animals are depicted in a space that is their own. In her animal portraits there is no space for a human to interact with animals depicted head on. Encaustic paintings by Kristen T. Woodward describe instances where animals illuminate myths and stories that have become part of our consciousness. The rich pigments suspended in wax create a depth to the picture plane like a portal to a world where animals reign.
Works in this show present a variety of encounters with animals. They are at times distant or close, fierce or calm, at peace or threatened. What each representation of an animal has in common in this show is that each is in a context where they are uncontrived and uncontrolled. Can we encounter successful works of animal imagery such as these without experiencing that strange alienation that divides us from the “human” and brings us closer to something more profound? The works in this show carefully construct an animal plane of existence that is unspeakably alive.
- Mary Gagler, Curator