The Armory Show: Where All The Cowboys Have Gone

by Michael Anthony Farley and Molly Rhinestones on March 4, 2016 Art Fair

Long before Richard Prince was screencapping Instagram, he rode an appropriated image of a cowboy to fame. At The Armory Show, it seems other artists are attempting the same. Cowboys are everywhere. Below, some noteworthy examples:

Gordon Cheung, “Minotaur 1 - 6,’ 2015 at Alan Christea Gallery (London)

Gordon Cheung, “Minotaur 1 – 6,’ 2015 at Alan Christea Gallery (London)

Michael: This Gordon Cheung is included in our cowboy highlights list not because of quality, but sheer quantity. Here there are six cowboys. Yeehaw!

Molly: This is the moment “Beers, Steers, and Queers” got stuck in my head and “Yeehaw!” hasn’t stopped playing on loop since.

Karl Haendel at WENTRUP (Berlin)

Karl Haendel at WENTRUP (Berlin)

Molly: Honestly, I just came to The Armory Show to have a good time and I’m feeling very personally attacked by how boring this cowgirl is. I was dragged to the “Cowboy Hall of Fame” constantly growing up because at the time it was the biggest museum in Oklahoma and there is a special place in my heart reserved for the hatred of traditional cowboy art.

Michael: Yeah, it’s hard to imagine how a life-size drawing of a woman riding a galloping horse could come across as so boring. It’’s one of the greatest mysteries of cowboy art. A mystery perhaps rivaled only by the Denver Airport’s public art. I’m impressed by the scale and technical proficiency, however.

Sislej Xhafa, “Wyatt and Sky,” 2016 at Blain Southern

Sislej Xhafa, “Wyatt and Sky,” 2016 at Blain Southern (London/Berlin)

Michael: At first, I thought this Sislej Xhafa was a Puppies Puppies installation. No, as Molly and I noticed, mannequins are just very in right now. Especially cowboys. If it weren’t for all the rugs and paintings of dots on the walls, one could easily mistake Pier 94 for a postapocalyptic outlet mall.

Molly: “Cowboy take me away

Fly this girl as high as you can into the wild blue

            Set me free, oh, I pray

            Closer to heaven or at least the VIP lounge”

            – my new Dixie Chicks cover song

Jose Dávila, “Untitled (Cowboy)” 2014 at Sean Kelley

Jose Dávila, “Untitled (Cowboy)” 2014 at Sean Kelley (New York)

Michael: I think this Jose Dávila is my favorite cowboy. The negative space might have been a saddle cropped from the photo, but it really looks like a cutout space where one might pose, hunched towards the cowboy’s crotch.

Molly: I don’t know if Jose Davila intended for this work to look vaguely like a saloon styled glory hole when he cut into Richard Prince’s original photo but it’s what made this my favorite cowboy as well.

Michael: LOL @ “original Richard Prince”. It just occurred to me that Sean Kelley was the only American “cowboy gallerist” on our list, and Jose Dávila is from Mexico. Are all these people bringing cowboy art to the US because they think this is what we like here? I like to think Berlin and London are full of cowboy art, being prepped for the American market. Confession: it is growing on me.

HustlerMolly: I take back what I just said, the cowgirl advertising Hustler Club across the street from the piers was my favorite cowboy art.

Michael: Yes! When you pointed this out to me it all made sense: Armory gallerists were embracing context in a way uncommon to most fairs. Life’s a rodeo. 

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