Issue 35 February 2024

Issue 34 November 2023

Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
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Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
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Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
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Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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1301 PE
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Clay ca
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art (Inglewood)
D2 Art (Westwood)
David Kordansky Gallery
David Zwirner
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Regen Projects
Reparations Club
r d f a
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
The Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
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Outside L.A.
Libraries/ Collections
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Horsepower: Rethinking the Equine in Contemporary Art

Leer en Español

Kenneth Tam, Silent Spikes (video still, detail) (2021). Image courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, Mexico City.

Artists have been fixated on horses since the sun rose on Stone Age cave painters. Millennia later, in 1819, Lord Byron articulated the compelling mixture of wildness and nobility so often associated with horses in his epic Mazeppa. At the beginning of the poem, its Cossack hero Ivan Mazeppa is strapped nude to a fearsome wild steed, ready to be dragged across Ukraine in punishment for his infidelity. Like Mazeppa himself, the horse is an outcast punished for its lack of restraint:

“Bring forth the horse!”—the horse was brought;
In truth, he was a noble steed,
A Tatar of the Ukraine breed,
Who look’d as though the speed of thought
Were in his limbs; but he was wild,
Wild as the wild deer, and untaught,
With spur and bridle undefiled—1

Byron’s articulation of the horse’s competing characteristics of integrity and degradation illuminates key qualities associated with horses in Western cultures from antiquity onward. Not only do horses have national identities, but they possess the extra-animal intelligence and muscularity required to conquer vast swaths of land. Horses also shepherded us into industrial modernity: In the 1770s, the term “horsepower” was employed as a marketing gimmick to liken the force generated by novel steam engines to the better-known power of draft horses.2 Whether a wild horse, a warhorse, or a workhorse, the animal’s brute strength, endurance, and capacity for instruction have charged them enough that entire genres—the equestrian and the Western—have consolidated around their symbolic weight. In dominant visual cultures, horses most frequently signify political power, physical prowess, and the freedom such qualities afford history’s victors. This approach is evident in the imperial portraits made between the Renaissance and the nineteenth century, like Titian’s Equestrian Portrait of Charles V (1548) and Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801) by Jacques-Louis David, and in twentieth-century monuments to the Confederacy, like the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia, which was installed in 1890 and removed in 2021. But such equine expressions of freedom are compromised, dependent upon both a rigorous disciplining of the horse’s body and the subjugation of non-dominant classes.

More than 140 Confederate monuments in the United States, many featuring horses, have been removed since 2015 in recognition of their ideological ties to white supremacy.3 However, even as these statues dwindle from public view, a proliferation of Western and equestrian tropes has saturated our media. Horse girls and cowboys abound in the American cultural imaginary, from fashion campaigns for Wrangler, Cynthia Rowley, and Helmut Lang, to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” (2019), Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022), and television series such as Yellowstone (2018–present) and the Westworld revival (2016–22).4 And while many of these recent uses of equine imagery are mere regurgitations of the old tropes of tamed femininity, rugged masculinity, and frontier anxiety, lately a new cohort of contemporary artists have been approaching the horse and its genres with renewed criticality. These contemporary artists explore the horse as an embattled figure of power and control, revealing and resisting the dreams of conquest it typically signifies.

Historical equestrian imagery often depicts the power born from a human-animal bond while overlooking the rigorous training and cultivation rituals that enable it. In Sarah Miska’s painted portraits of contemporary equestrian culture, both humans and animals engage in dressage.5 Her paintings, wrought with scrupulous attention to detail, feature closely-cropped depictions of human and horse hair stylings. The composition of Rider with Blue Helmet (2021) centers on a neat ballet bun, double-wrapped in a silk scrunchie and adorned with a series of glistening jewels. Not a strand is out of place in the tightly-coiled hairdo, as though the bun were a precious object in a Dutch vanitas painting of earthly excesses that will soon perish. In Brown Twisted Tail (2022), Miska focuses on a horse’s tail fashioned into a plait. The restrained hair coils around itself, wrapped in a knot near the tail’s base. More than the composition of Rider with Blue Helmet, which could have been lifted from an advertisement or a DIY hair tutorial, this image of a horse’s hindquarters is alien and somewhat grotesque. Across Miska’s body of work, her compositions denaturalize the strict management of riders’ and horses’ appearances. Her focus on such minor moments of discipline—the perfect wrapping and adornment of hair—suggests how external powers shape the bodies of their subjects. Given equestrianism’s strictures of self-presentation, it is no wonder that equestrian tools such as sturdy boots, belts, and stirrups are some of the most iconic fetish objects of authority.

Practices of dressage were of particular interest to a coterie of mid-century Marxist cultural critics, who likened the conditioning of the capitalist subject to the inculcation of obedience and suppleness in a trained horse.6 Henri Lefebvre’s theory of dressage posits that “humans break themselves in [se dressent] like animals. They learn to hold themselves. Dressage can go a long way: as far as breathing, movements, sex. It bases itself on repetition.”7 Repetition, therefore, codifies certain ways of being and makes learned behavior second nature. When used as an aesthetic tool, however, repetition can induce the opposite effect: defamiliarization (think, for instance, of how bizarre the word “concrete” might sound when spoken aloud 50 times in a row). A scene in artist Kenneth Tam’s video Silent Spikes (2021) captures an Asian man on a soundstage, spotlit from above and dressed in denim and brown leather boots, with a bandana wrapped around his neck and a cowboy hat on his head. Eyes cast downward and unaware of the outside world, much less the camera and the viewer, he torques his body in gyrating, circular motions, one hand in the air as though balancing himself on a mechanical bull. The repetition of this performance of masculinity—its hip thrusts, its taming of an imagined animal—imbues the gesture with strangeness and humor as well as soft sensuality: The video’s subject resembles a masculine correlate to the wind-up ballerina in a jewelry box. Further, a voiceover narrates in Cantonese the events of an unsuccessful 1867 labor strike on the Transcontinental Railroad, reminding viewers that the rugged frontier life of all-American cowboys was enabled by the exploited labor of Chinese-American workers.8 In Tam’s reprisal of the rugged stoicism of the American cowboy, he engages in a kind of anti-dressage, using repetition to reveal the unnaturalness of the cowboy’s habitus and narrating a resistance to the exploits of Western expansion.

The horse and its genres teach us not only how individual bodies are shaped and manipulated by greater social and political forces, but also give expression to broader national myths. One such myth—the whiteness of the cowboy as a quintessential figure of freedom and nobility—manifests in almost all representations of the American West, from a Google search of the term “cowboy” to the haunting animatronics found in Old West towns. In reality, an estimated one in four nineteenth-century American cowboys were Black and often worked as cowhands tasked with taming the unruliest of horses.9 Black Cowboy, a 2016 exhibition at The Studio Museum in Harlem curated by Amanda Hunt, offered an unraveling of the whitewashed history of the American West, as well as an exploration of the contemporary cultures of Black cowboys. In Deana Lawson’s photograph Cowboys (2014), she captures two riders at a dignifying low angle with a striking flash. The men emerge from a pitch-black night, faces partially obscured by a cowboy hat and a bandana, imbuing the scene with stoic intensity. And Wildcat (2013), Kahlil Joseph’s single-channel black-and-white video, depicts an annual Black rodeo in Grayson, Oklahoma in iconic, contemplative slow-motion. The riders twist, fall, and jump from their horses’ contorting bodies with baroque seriousness and grandeur. If Tam’s rehearsals of cowboy swagger break down the cowboy archetype, Lawson and Joseph reconstruct it, harnessing its associations with power and prowess to associate their subjects with an agency of which they have historically been stripped.

Chandra McCormick, Angola Penitentiary, Men Breaking Wild Horses, Louisiana State Prison Rodeo (2013). Archival pigment print. Image courtesy of the artist and Prospect New Orleans.

Chandra McCormick pushes the relationship between Blackness and the Western further, drawing a connection between the condition of Black masculinity in the United States and the “breaking” of wild horses. Her photograph Angola Penitentiary, Men Breaking Wild Horses, Louisiana State Prison Rodeo (2013), also exhibited at The Studio Museum and part of a photo series documenting inmates at the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary (named “Angola” after the slave plantation that formerly occupied the land),10 depicts a group of inmates shrouded in dust as they use ropes to harness the brute strength of several horses. During this rodeo, roughly 10,000 spectators—who are, in McCormick’s photograph, overwhelmingly white—gather to watch inmates partake in a ritual that bears striking similarity with the severe labor conditions forced upon chattel slaves and, later, Black cowhands.11 The figure of the cowboy signifies not only freedom, but also freedom’s costs. Here, Angola positions the temporary release of inmates from their cells as a moment of celebration and heroism at the same time as it reinforces their lack of agency. The conditions of the horses in the photograph parallel the conditions of the inmates: Their physical binds and enclosure within a circumscribed arena are the preconditions of disturbing spectator sport.

While artists such as these use conventions of the equestrian and the Western to explore the horse’s ideological ties to power, Dominique Knowles strips the horse from narratives of conquest entirely. In his recent exhibition My Beloved at Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Knowles freed the human-horse relationship from the structures of management, dominance, and constraint, instead making it a site of religious encounter. A series of windswept landscapes, some taking the form of altarpieces through their triptych structure, honor the artist’s recently deceased horse. The horse appears in some works only as an amorphous shadow, and in others, it is not straightforwardly represented at all. In one work titled The Solemn and Dignified Burial Befitting My Beloved for All Seasons (2023) (all of the works in the exhibition share the same title), a whirling abstraction awash in earthen rusts and browns embodies the shifting perspective of a horse in motion. An additional square emerges from the top edge of the painting, where a deity would be placed in an altarpiece but which here features only a greenish haze. Knowles extracts the horse from its usual context—a muscular body traversing a wide terrain with might—instead representing its sublime surrounding atmosphere as a field of buzzing color.

Knowles’ compounding of the Western, the devotional, and the romantic genres might be understood as what cultural critic Lauren Berlant has called “genre flailing,” a mode of managing the discordance between the ideals embedded within a genre and transfiguring those ideals into ordinary life.12 The storied masculinity of the cowboy, riding his horse through open plains with gun in tow, disintegrates in Knowles’ contemplative paintings, which favor softness over violence and mourning over triumph. “Genres,” writes Berlant, “provide an affective expectation of the experience of watching something unfold, whether that thing is in life or in art.”13 The genres of the Western and the equestrian are therefore not only a matter of semantics, made up of a rubric of repeated visual and narrative conventions, but structures of feeling that guide how we process the external world and our place within it. Whether through challenging the Western’s aesthetic conventions of composition and performance, as in the work of Miska and Tam, or through revealing hypocrisy baked into the logic of the genre, as in the work of McCormick and Joseph, contemporary artists working with equine motifs do not resuscitate old genres so much as implode them. In a changing world —one characterized, in part, by the foreclosure of a frontier mentality hopeful for boundless economic and territorial expansion—the idioms and logic of our genres must also change. The equestrian sculpture will crack; the rider will fall from his horse.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 33.

Deana Lawson, Cowboys (2014). Pigment print, 40 × 50 inches. Image courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery.

Dominique Knowles, The Solemn and Dignified Burial Befitting My Beloved for All Seasons (2023). Oil on linen, 78 × 64 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles. Photo: Paul Salveson.

Sarah Miska, Brown Twisted Tail (detail) (2022). Acrylic on canvas, 14 × 11 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Night Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Nik Massey.

  1. Lord Byron, Mazeppa, A Poem (London: John Murray, 1819), 22.
  2. “Why one horsepower is more than the power of one horse,” Institute of Physics,
  3. Bonnie Berkowitz and Adrian Blanco, “A record number of Confederate monuments fell in 2020, but hundreds still stand. Here’s where,” June 17, 2020, updated March 12, 2021, The Washington Post,; Miles Parks, “Confederate Statues Were Built To Further A ‘White Supremacist Future,’” NPR, August 20, 2017,
  4. Nadia Lee Cohen (@nadialeecohen), “giddyup @GANT x @wrangler campaign out now,” Instagram photo, September 15, 2022,; Cynthia Rowley, “CR x Marfa,” directed by Katherine Goguen, YouTube video, May 18, 2022,; Helmut Lang Seen by Antwaun Sargent, Hannah Traore Gallery, February 11–23, 2023, accessed June 23, 2023,
  5. Dressage, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, refers to “the training of a horse to perform special, carefully controlled movements as directed by the rider, or the performance of these movements as a sport or in a competition.”
  6. Lisa Moravec, “Dressage Performances as Infrastructural Critique: Mike Kelley and Yvonne Rainer’s Dancing Horses,” Dance Chronicle 45, no. 1 (2022): 57–78,
  7. Henri Lefebvre, “Dressage,” in Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life, trans. Stuart Elden and Gerald Moore (London: Continuum, 2004), 39.
  8. “The Chinese Workers’ Strike,” American Experience, PBS,
  9. Katie Nodjimbadem, “The Lesser-Known History of African-American Cowboys,” Smithsonian, February 13, 2017,
  10. “Angola State Prison: A Short History,” Voices Behind Bars: National Public Radio and Angola State Prison, Columbia University,
  11. “Prison Rodeo,” Louisiana Prison Museum & Cultural Center,; Simeon Soffer, director, The Angola Prison Rodeo: The Wildest Show in the South, 1999.
  12. Lauren Berlant, “Genre Flailing,” Capacious: Journal of Emerging Affect Inquiry 1, no. 2 (2018): 156–62,
  13. Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham: Duke University Press: 2011), 6.

Isabella Miller lives and works in Los Angeles.

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