Racehorses Get Artzy

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With the race for the Triple Crown underway, it seems even non-equestrians are currently focused on what makes the perfect racehorse. So this weekend between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness is the perfect time to revisit a few famous ways in which the racehorse form has been immortalized in film. First up is the entrancing work of the veteran British collage artist and filmmaker John Stezaker.

On display now until July 19 at the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex, on the south coast of England, are three film works by Stezaker, including his thought provoking 2012 work, “Horse.” In “Horse,” the photograph of every racehorse advertised for stud in the Stallion Annual in order from 1984 until the publication changed format in 2001 flashes in rapid succession on a screen as big as a billboard. The effect is shimmering, jittery, and in fact represents an accelerated genetic history of the racehorse. Take a peek!

Interestingly, Stezaker’s racehorse film reminds almost every critic of another famous horse film – Eadweard Muybridge’s well-known photographic studies of the horse in motion. In the 1870s, Muybridge’s photographic skills were called on to prove whether a galloping horse lifts all four hooves off the ground at one point in its sequence of motion. His patron for the project was businessman, racehorse owner, and former governor of California, Leland Stanford.

Although the human eye couldn’t see it, Muybridge’s lens ultimately proved what every horse lover knows instinctually – that horses give us wings!   Even if you didn’t know the history, you’ve probably seen this film before.

To create a cinematic effect in these early days of technology, Muybridge copied his images in the form of silhouettes onto a disc to be viewed in a machine he had invented, which he called a zoopraxiscope. This device was later regarded as an early movie projector, and the process as an influential step toward motion pictures or cinematography.

Finally, let’s salute that cinematic masterpiece of sorts, known as the sports-related television commercial. This year, like always, these commercials dominated the Kentucky Derby coverage. Our favorite this year came from Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey, and really brings the discussion of horses influencing art influencing our understanding of horses full circle. In case you missed it, enjoy!

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