Monday, August 09, 2010

Duane Reed Gallery: Friday, 10 September 2010

"Radiant Rhino", 2010 by Mary Sprague pastel on paper 30" h x 40" w
Exhibition opens Friday, September 10th with a reception 5–8pm. The exhibition will run through October 16th.

Mary Sprague has been contemplating the nature of the rhinoceros. Known more recently for her humorous depictions of birds-Chickens and Eagles- her new body of work about the rhinoceros represents a departure in subject matter. In 1515 Albrecht Durer famously produced a woodcut of a rhinoceros based on a written description of an Indian rhino that had recently arrived in Lisbon. The resulting print looks like a fantastic military tank- as if the animal were wearing plate armor. Durer’s artistic mistake has remained the popular view of the exotic species: a tough thick-skinned brute. Even though we now understand the skin is as sensitive as our own, Sprague’s rhinos also wear plate armor. Not, as in Durer’s case in error, but for an emotive and comic characterization making the animal look like a medieval knight. Sprague’s attitude toward the human figure explains this tendency: “The human figure- I’ve never been able to identify with it. I don’t do drawings of humans because they don’t tell you the truth.” In a similar way Durer’s mistake, which created a stunning representation of the armored rhino, still seems true to our eyes today. We know the print is a rhino despite the information being objectively wrong. Sprague explores this anthropomorphic truth by recasting skin into plate armor. With Sprague’s new work the rhino’s face and posture hint at familiar human emotions and obsessions. She transforms a herd of wild animals into human-like medieval armies, brooding kings and gallant knights. By toying with representations she plays with the objective information but still tells us something true about this majestic species.


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