DEBORAH BUTTERFIELD (B. 1949) Dance Horse, 1999 (This work is unique.)
Lot 36W
DEBORAH BUTTERFIELD
(B. 1949)
Dance Horse, 1999
Sold for US$ 312,500 inc. premium

Post-War & Contemporary Art

15 Nov 2017, 17:00 EST

New York

Lot Details
PROPERTY FROM A PROMINENT NEW YORK COLLECTION
DEBORAH BUTTERFIELD (B. 1949) Dance Horse, 1999 (This work is unique.) DEBORAH BUTTERFIELD (B. 1949) Dance Horse, 1999 (This work is unique.) DEBORAH BUTTERFIELD (B. 1949) Dance Horse, 1999 (This work is unique.) DEBORAH BUTTERFIELD (B. 1949) Dance Horse, 1999 (This work is unique.)
DEBORAH BUTTERFIELD (B. 1949)
Dance Horse, 1999

incised with the Walla Walla Foundry mark and dated '1999' (on the underside)
bronze

89 x 60 x 96 in.
226.1 x 152.4 x 243.8 cm

This work is unique.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle.
    Private Collection, Portland (acquired from the above in 1999).
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Exhibited
    This work was on extended loan to the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Washington, from June 2000-July 2015.


    Throughout her career, Deborah Butterfield has dedicated herself to the exploration of the equine form and its innate, expressive nature, one that is keenly attuned to the artist herself and her capacity to translate emotion into form and texture. Harnessing this connection, Butterfield's sculptures seemingly come to life once the viewer enters the shared space of the gallery, her colossal figures imbuing the environment with a calm stillness despite their towering physical presence. According to art critic John Yau, such communicative control of both subject matter and hard-edged material is truly innate to Butterfield, noting, "a work by Butterfield strikes us in both look and gesture as absolutely true to our notions of a horse and becomes something fresh and powerful, as well as tender and vulnerable."1

    Initially working with mud, sticks, clay, and papier-mâché in the 1970s, Butterfield later sought a more stable, unchanging material to construct such large forms. She began to reconfigure her initial skeletal steel frames that had once been covered in organic matter, and instead began to shape found metal into armor-like flanks. By the middle of the 1980s, Butterfield's practices matured as she experimented with a new material in the hopes of solving her dilemma of stability and longevity. Merging these two substances – that of organic branches and manufactured, discarded metal – was imperative to Butterfield's artistic practice. Her solution was to create an initial form with the found sticks and branches she collected, erecting a wooden model that she perceptively describes as a 'ghost;' after it is cast in bronze, the wood becomes ash and the remaining evidence of its form is its imprint left in the bronze.

    These lines and forms that Butterfield reverentially borrows from nature are unique to her and hers alone to use, whereby "the lines of the branches do not simply outline the forms of the horses, they create contours through an accumulation of simple or energetic lines that seem to build up from within. This is three-dimensional gesture drawing, and as a result is both skeletal and muscular."2Butterfield breathes life into these undefined shapes, prompting the viewer to consider what was once detritus as something anew. Eleanor Heartney states, "Whether constructed of discarded pipes, fencing and corrugated aluminum, or from once living matter, her sculptures celebrate a universal life force. Butterfield expresses a sense of the energies hidden within the material world. In her sculptures, prosaic elements are transformed and given life without losing their original identities. As a result, we simultaneously perceive them as configurations of recognizable objects and as potentially animate beings."3

    Such play of impermanence and the ephemeral – taking what is meant to morph, grow, die and decay – and, in turn, instill a sense of resilience and stability is truly striking. In reproducing what was once alive in a bronze medium, synthesizing elements of man and nature, Butterfield's artistic intent and essential voice become inseverable, affirming "what is dead may never die."4


    1. J. Yau, Deborah Butterfield: New Work, New York, Danese Corey, 2011.
    2. G. Clemans, "Deborah Butterfield's Contemplative Horses", in The Seattle Times, July 2011.
    3. E. Heartney, Deborah Butterfield, exh. cat., Chicago, Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, 2007, p. 2.
    4. G. R. R. Martin, A Clash of Kings, New York, 1999, p. 133.
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