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Menagerie: Animals on View

Saturday, March 11, 2017Sunday, June 4, 2017

Installation view of Menagerie: Animals on View. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

1905 Building

This is the final exhibition in a series of collection-based installations that consider the trajectory of traditionally defined genres in art and the ways in which they continue to flourish while often being challenged and transformed. In Menagerie: Animals on View, creatures—furred and feathered—are featured as agents of storytelling, humorous personifications, and echoes of the human spirit.

Over time, animals have emerged as an established artistic motif. The gestural images of horses made tens of thousands of years ago on the walls of caves in Lascaux, France, are some of the earliest forms of visual expression. In the mid–18th century, animals became a prominent theme in painting and sculpture. Artists began combining scientific principles with creative observation; the characteristics, habits, and environments of faunae were of significant interest. At the same time, the narratives found in illustrated fables and political satires offered unique opportunities to anthropomorphize animals. By instilling human personality in cats and dogs, for example, the genre shifted toward a new form of revelation. From images of affection and beauty to those that are funny and peculiar, the enduring bond between man and beast prevailed.

What is it about this particular topic that artists find so compelling? Animals are a source of companionship, comfort, and food, but perhaps it is the way they also emulate our emotions that offers a unique entry point for the viewer. While such imagery may tug at our heartstrings, it simultaneously points toward a bond that exceeds spoken, painted, or sculpted representation. This exhibition explores the ways in which this vast subject has evolved into a mirror of the most intimate aspects of the psyche but dually serves as a reflection of the social and political environment. Creatures, great and small, prompt us to consider the dynamics of dominance, oppression, and exclusion as parallels of human society. 

Giacomo Balla (Italian, 1871–1958). Dinamismo di un cane al guinzaglio (Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash), 1912. Oil on canvas, 35 3/8 x 43 1/4 inches (89.9 x 109.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Bequest of A. Conger Goodyear and Gift of George F. Goodyear, 1964 (1964:16). © Estate of Giacomo Balla / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome

Kai Althoff (German, born 1966). Untitled (for Lionel Maunz), 2008. Pigmented resin, wool, enamel paint, and iron; 113 x 61 3/4 inches (287 x 156.8 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange and Albert H. Tracy Fund, by exchange, 2011 (2011:1a-c). © 2008 Kai Althoff.

Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909–1992). Man with Dog, 1953. Oil on canvas, 60 x 46 inches (152 x 117 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1955 (K1955:3). © Estate of Francis Bacon / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London.

William Holbrook Beard (American, 1824–1900). The March of Silenus, ca. 1862. Oil on canvas, 45 x 35 inches (114.3 x 88.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Subscribers Fund, 1874 (1874:2).

Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 1907–1954). Self-Portrait with Monkey, 1938. Oil on Masonite, 16 x 12 inches (40.6 x. 30.5 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Bequest of A. Conger Goodyear, 1966 (1966:9.10). © Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Bruce Nauman (American, born 1941). Green Horses, 1988. Video installation (color, sound) with two color video monitors, two DVD players, video projector, and chair; running time: 59 minutes, 40 seconds. Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Purchased jointly by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, with funds from the Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange, 2007 and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, with funds from the Director's Discretionary Fund and the Painting and Sculpture Committee (2007:7a-k). © Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Kiki Smith (American, born Germany, 1954). Born, 2002. Bronze, edition 2/3 and 1 AP; 39 x 101 x 24 inches (99.1 x 256.5 x 61 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2002 (2002:2). © 2002 Kiki Smith.

William Wegman (American, born 1943). Sitting Airedale with Tale, 1981. Polaroid diffusion transfer print, 31 x 27 inches (78.7 x 68.6 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Norman E. Boasberg Fund, 1982 (P1982:1). © William Wegman

Assembled from the Albright-Knox’s expansive collection, the exhibition will bring together more than 50 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and videos. Featured artists include Kai Althoff (German, born 1966), Karel Appel (Dutch, 1921–2006), Milton Avery (American, 1885–1965), Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909–1992), Giacomo Balla (Italian, 1871–1958), William Holbrook Beard (American, 1824–1900), Grace Hartigan (American, 1922–2008), Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 1907–1954), Bruce Nauman (American, born 1941), Kiki Smith (American, born 1954), and William Wegman (American, born 1943), among others.

This exhibition is organized by Godin-Spaulding Curator & Curator for the Collection Holly E. Hughes.

Museum admission to this exhibition is 50% off during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS on April 7 and May 5, and free during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS on June 2, 2017.

Exhibition Sponsors

This exhibition is supported by The Seymour H. Knox Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Equipment and technical support provided by Advantage TI.