The Last Equestrian Portrait at SPRING/BREAK 2018

(Top left to bottom right) Title card; Clement Valla, Wrapped Spandrel; Christopher K. Ho, The Pasture 6, 10, 12, 14; Installation view of Amanda Nedham and Rachel Grobstein; Amanda Nedham, A Riderless Horse has No Legs; Rachel Grobstein, Bedside Table, Amanda; Kyle Hittmeier, Never Held the Field; Tima Ouzden, Please Believe That I am Falling Apart


The Last Equestrian Portrait. 

Rachel Grobstein, Kyle Hittmeier, Christopher K. Ho, Amanda Nedham, Tima Ouzden, and Clement Valla


THE LAST EQUESTRIAN PORTRAIT 

On a massive plinth of granite stands a four-legged beast frozen in valiance. As three hooves anchor
heavily down on the surface of the rock, a front leg is elegantly held at a ninety degree angle—balancing
the massive and well-defined muscles of the neck, shoulders, pectorals, and haunches. This leg belongs
to a horse and the bending of its joint suggests something regal, clement, and tame. Atop sits an
unfamiliar ghost whose body language mirrors that of the horse. The greening bronze skin of the two
figures show vestiges of weather and erosion. Whether the horse is anthropomorphic, or the rider
zoomorphic, the two are locked in symbiotic companionship for all time. 

The Last Equestrian Portrait considers the millennial-old tradition of human adjacency to an animal
portrayed as both wild and domestic, heroic and vulnerable. From the cave paintings of Lascaux to the
photographs of Muybridge, the horse has been steadfast in punctuating moments in a world rapidly
evolving through technology. It has served as a symbolic vehicle connecting strangers throughout history
and across geography. The pace of our times, defined by the disappearance of our physical body and the
emergence of a digital one, leads us to a new horizon where we must ask: Is time to leave the horse
behind? 

This question has been pushed to the forefront of the collective American psyche with the recent removal
of equestrian confederate statues championing ideas morally relegated to the dust bin of history. From
Marcus Aurelius to Theodore Roosevelt, the rider and horse have been associated with conquest and
mobility, and through the act of commemoration political viewpoints are celebrated and immortalized.
This being said, as we move at a lightning fast pace to amend historical markers to catch up with a
collective and moralizing global consciousness, we find that public statues have the power to induce
anxiety; they have become strangers. With a sense of urgency we ask, can the horse be rescued? Can we
once again look into the face of a noble or frightened creature captured in oil paint or marble and see
ourselves? The curators reflect on a modern work of art that exemplifies the complex nature of this
companionship: Georges Stubbs’ The Farmer’s Wife. The painting depicts a woman riding a horse, who
startled by a raven buckles in unison with her animal. The two are equally vulnerable as they go down
together. The Last Equestrian Portrait asks if the horse can raise up the rider and serve as a spectral
guide through an uncertain future.

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