Touchstones, Totems, Talismans: Animals in Contemporary Art

October 13, 2017 - February 11, 2018

Ask the beasts and they will teach you the beauty of this earth. — Francis of Assisi

The inspiration for this exhibit dates back to the 2004 BMAC exhibit Andy Warhol: The Jon Gould Collection. The most commented-on works in that show were the large prints from Warhol’s 1983 “Endangered Species” portfolio. Observing visitors’ reactions to those powerful images, I sensed that their aesthetic experiences were enriched by the deep connections humans have with animals, both domestic and wild.

Depicting animals—as symbols, teachers, muses, companions—connects human cultures across time. Pictures of animals serve as proxies for happiness, distress, or fear. They speak of love, remembrance, and condolence. Whether literal or abstract, animal images call into play both our experiences with the creatures themselves and the often deep-seated characteristics, traits, and qualities we assign to them.

Featuring the work of Walton Ford, Bharti Kher, Colleen Kiely, Stephen Petegorsky, Shelley Reed, Jane Rosen, Michal Rovner, Rick Shaefer, and Andy Warhol, this exhibit offers a mere glimpse into the complexity of human-animal relationships in contemporary art. The selected works are diverse in intention and execution. Some are humorous; others are unsettling. All invite contemplation of the various ways in which animals inhabit our personal experiences, our cultural history, and our common world.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

All works are on view courtesy of the artists and Sears-Peyton Gallery, New York; Pace Gallery, New York; The Gould Family; Wingate Studio; and Larry Warsh.


Photo Gallery