Magazine article Artforum International

Deborah Butterfield

Magazine article Artforum International

Deborah Butterfield

Article excerpt

ZOLLA/LIEBERMAN GALLERY

The world of the haunch, hoof, and mane seems largely divorced from the mainstream of modern existence, has, in fact, become a nostalgic trope--the stuff of revery and myth. As a focus in modern art, horses have really been right at the heart of only two artist's careers: Marino Marini's and Deborah Butterfield's. Not coincidentally, the work of both of these sculptors reflects the beauty and rhythmic power of the animal world--its resplendence and corporeality, its stoic splendor and grace.

From her home and studio in Bozeman, Montana, Butterfield continues to investigate these representations, creating in the eight pieces shown here curiously peaceful, domesticated objects. Butterfield's horses are docile and well-behaved, tame, self-contained grazers, not strident wild beasts symbolizing Romantic notions of freedom. Supple and noble, they become paragons of nature, arcadian creatures who enjoy a synthesis with a world no longer accessible to us--one that we can only wistfully witness when it is made manifest in these beautiful animals. Butterfield's most extraordinary skill, of course, is her capacity to convince her viewers of the total palpability of these horses, though she constructs them out of no more than bits and pieces of found metal. Old rusted buckets, fuel tins, pipes, gutters, signs, gas tanks, chunks of siding, etc., are bent and welded together, metamorphosed into the contours of striding flank and swelling belly. Butterfield's source material itself bespeaks Big Sky Country: forgotten and discarded bits of metallic flotsam that originally intruded onto sylvan plains are now rehabilitated as art. …

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