"Go East, Young Man!" Life Magazine, February 1912 (top)

"Remove that paw." Wild and Woolly, Lobby Card 1917 (bottom)

Wild and Woolly

January 10- February 21, 2014

Curated by Ryan Arthurs

Opening Reception:

Friday, January 10, 6-8:30pm, free and open to the public

“No other nation has taken a time and place from its past and produced a construct of the imagination equal to America’s creation of the West.” -Historian David Murdoch

The Wild West and America’s frontier history are considered cornerstones of national imagination and identity. Often the West, as promoted in American popular culture, distorts history by blurring myth and reality and excluding the histories of more marginalized groups. Wild and Woolly exalts and satirizes celebrated western narratives and imagery through the work of five artists Sean Downey, Olivier Laude, David Lefkowitz, Robin Myers and Deborah Oropallo who blend fact and fiction to re-imagine the frontier landscape and its peoples.

The exhibition’s title, Wild and Woolly, is an American expression that originated after the California Gold Rush era of the 1850s to describe the ‘wild’ west of the country. The term refers to the violent, lawless and uncivilized character of the frontier. Within a fine arts context, the phrase is alluring for its rich descriptive and physical properties, as relating to surface and texture.The exhibition title also references the 1917 silent film of the same name, which tells the story of one man's personal odyssey from sophisticated Easterner to Western tough guy. The film captures the tropes and charms of the American West in order to subvert the Western genre.

Popular and material culture also play a role in the artwork on view. Sean Downey and Olivier Laude use ideas of the West as popularly portrayed in cinema and literature to create a fictional place of colorful and unsavory characters.  Deborah Oropallo’s digitally constructed paintings are created entirely from images mined from internet sources and masterfully manipulated to re-present the stereotype of the rodeo cowgirl as victorious heroine. Combining materials like lumber, cardboard, and sheetrock with imagery depicted in oil paint or other media, David Lefkowitz creates trompe-l’oeil objects that re-connect natural resource to material product, calling attention to deforestation and development simultaneously.The photographs of Robin Myers extend the frontier to outer space. Using astronomical glass-plate negatives from Harvard University’s archives, Myers re-photographed the galaxy using a 20x24 large format Polaroid camera. Myers’ photographs trigger our deepest desires to explore, drift and dream.


This exhibition is presented by the New Art Center Curatorial Opportunity Program (COP), which makes possible diverse curatorial visions in a non-profit, alternative exhibition space. Click here for more information on the program.


Public Programs:

Wednesday, January 22, 7-9pm: Curator’s Talk and Film Screening of Wild & Woolly

Wednesday, January 29, 7-9pm: Artist Talk, Sean Downey

Friday, February 21, 7-9pm: Closing Party


The New Art Center in Newton

61 Washington Park

Newtonville, MA 02460


(617) 964-3424