The Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art is proud to present Behold a Pale Horse, a solo exhibition by Las Vegas artist Brent Holmes. Working through a variety of media, Holmes practices an active meditation on the challenges of manifesting the contemporary and historical presence of Black voices in the American West.
Observing that “actions lead to objects,” the artist brings together sculpture, painting, performance, video, and installation to cast a critical eye on the iconic forms of the cowboy, the railroad worker, the prospector, and the tools that powered the westward movement of 19th-century settlers. “Technology and progress have always been intermingled. The cowboy serves as an avatar for this in the West,” Holmes says. “An intersection of northern European, Spanish, and African herding traditions, there is no more American representation of radical individualism and self-reliance."
On three occasions, visitors to Behold a Pale Horse will have the opportunity to watch the artist create the individual parts of a triptych by self-knowingly performing the action of painting with the aid of handmade tools that combine paintbrushes with railroad spikes and machetes. Visitors who miss the performances will be able to trace the history of the static artworks in front of them by reliving the activity of the artist via recordings and motion-tracking technology.
On a fourth occasion, the artist will cook a meal in the gallery, using indigenous Nevadan ingredients to hint at ideas about place, belonging, and the hierarchy of importance we assign to different acts of creation.
"Since the first machete cut a path through the wilderness, technology has reigned over the notion of human progression," Holmes says. "Just as cowboys of all ethnicities drove a bloody path to the coasts, machines today are developing towards an overwhelming digital frontier. … As we collectively continue to build and explore, we need to confront the question of what expansion means, and our complicity with technology’s role in it."
Brent Holmes is an artist, activist, and cultural animator whose work investigates contemporary social structures through a historical lens. Much of his work examines epistemological warfare, the body, food, play, and cultural discourse. He has exhibited at the Torrance Art Museum, the Nevada Museum of Art, and is part of the permanent collection of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art. He is the co-organizer of local performance art event RADAR, an arts writer, and curator.
Behold a Pale Horse runs from January 15 - April 2, 2021. The dates, times, and other details of the performances will be announced on the Barrick Museum’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts while the exhibition is taking place. Entry to the museum is free. Please see the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art website to read our safety guidelines and make a timed reservation before you visit.
The exhibition would not exist in its current form without the technical expertise of Michael Genova and Joshua Vermillion, the metal-working proficiency of John Stoelting, and the construction skills of Joel Spencer. The artist would also like to thank Ashanti McGee, his children, Patrick Sibily, Brandon Thompson, Rebecca Snetslaar, and Claire Vaye Watkins.
Support for this exhibition is provided by the WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund, a relief grant developed in partnership with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support arts organizations in the 13-state western region during the COVID-19 pandemic.