Horton Gallery is pleased to present A Brief But Violent Episode, a group show featuring works by Scott Barber, Martha Colburn, Allan Doyle, Peter Gallo, Daniel Gordon, Kirk Hayes and Annick Ligtermoet.

The artists in this exhibition poetically depict Illness and suffering to evoke the inevitable agonies of human existence. Using various media and approaches, this group of works reveals moments of catharsis, devotion, shock, and sympathy to explore the anxiety of addressing one’s physical vulnerability.

The efforts of artists to approach the realness of bodily distress can be found throughout history, dating back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance when devotional paintings commonly used the sick and the homeless as models to accentuate the physical deterioration of religious figures being depicted. In their emphatic announcement of trauma, the exaggerated injury in Kirk Hayes’ self-portrait, The Big Nose Bleed (The Illusion of Immortality Wanes), and the viscerally passionate quality of Peter Gallo’s painting, Oh Robert, may recall medieval images of the suffering of Christ or of Mary or the veneration of saintly human remains. However, it is most often the artist’s own bodily affliction which is represented in this exhibition, as is the case in Scott Barber’s painted microscopic images of his cancer cells and Annick Logtermoet’s photograph of herself with a scar after recent surgery, alluding to Van Gogh’s self-portraits with a bandaged ear.

Artists have also historically emphasized the portrayal of physical anguish through their material choices, some early examples being Michelangelo’s painstakingly carved late pietàs, which show evidence of the artist’s struggle with his stone. Using a 20th century trend, Daniel Gordon’s Man in the Grass refers to the violent photo-collages of DADA artists working in interwar Germany who contorted and disfigured human forms using images appropriated from news sources. Also working in a medium that engages with the instability of human corporeality, Martha Colburn’s Cosmetic Emergency, consists of animations of the artist’s application of paint on glass to create graphic sequences that explore the contemporary obsession with cosmetic surgery. In this video Colburn contemplates the medium of painting, traditionally associated with permanence and historicity, to draw attention to the tenuousness of our physicality. Allan Doyle’s portrayal of bodily discomfort in Exam (The She Wolf) emerges in the anxious setting of a military medical examination, a painted scene constructed of images sourced from the internet and re-contextualized to combine erotic and repressive tones.

By expressing the human body and spirit in ailment, the artists in this exhibition enter into a long tradition of using art to communicate the intensity of human suffering.

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