What You Need to Know: Marlborough in New York is presenting the solo exhibition “Deborah Butterfield,” which is on view through January 14, 2023 and is the artist’s first outing with the gallery. The show features Butterfield’s signature horse sculptures with examples of her wide-ranging use of materials, including metal, wood, patinated cast bronze, and other found materials. Of particular note is Butterfield’s deft use of scale, with both life-size and smaller, pedestal-size works on view. Having embarked on the horse motif in the mid-1970s, the artist has over the course of her career been able to not only hone her technical skill, but also expand her sculptures’ ability to convey moods and emotions. A fully illustrated, 160-page exhibition catalogue featuring a text by Lawrence Weschler accompanies the show. This exhibition coincided with Butterfield being awarded the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center, which was presented at the gallery on November 4, 2022.
Why We Like It: Butterfield was born on the same day as the 75th Kentucky Derby, which the artist credits as the catalyst for her enduring, lifelong interest in horses. Delimiting her primary subject matter allows Butterfield to more broadly experiment with and explore the other fundamentals of her work, namely her media and the composition of her sculptures. Within the boundaries of these artistic elements, Butterfield has been able to engage with pervasive and relatable themes around the natural world at large and emotional states. The life-size and scaled-down horse sculptures within the exhibition manage to convey both the poetry and feeling of the animal’s form and Butterfield’s creative process. Together, the beguiling collection of works allow viewers to not only reflect on a subject that has captured imaginations for millennia, but also to appreciate Butterfield’s skill as a sculptor.
According to the Artist: “Horses are like the ocean. I mean, they’re extremely civilized and domesticated. They’re very smart—maybe not at doing what people do or what dogs do, but they’re really smart at what they do. They’re the best at being horses of anybody. But there is that danger and respect. The idea that at any moment they could kill you. Not that they want to. They’re just—they’re forces of nature. It can get to be like a rogue wave: you just never turn your back on the ocean.”
See inside the exhibition below.