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Published on Jan 29, 2010
Much like visual art, the enduring tradition of cowboy poetry is a rich and vital form of cultural expression in the American West. Inspired by the widely-celebrated poem Grass—written by legendary Texas poet Buck Ramsey—this exhibition features a selection of contemporary artworks combined with the spoken voices of renowned cowboy poets. Grass was selected as the basis for the exhibition because it eloquently engages a range of themes and ideas that resonate with anyone who has spent time in the open spaces of the American West.
Foremost among these themes is the recognition of rhythm as an essential component of nature and cowboy life as well as art—a quality that is also reflected in the cadence of cowboy poetry. From Karen Kitchels intricate paintings of grass that evoke seasonal transitions, to Ed Ruschas Clock that literally conflates the passage of time with the cycles of nature, the artworks included in this exhibition demonstrate and reflect a range of rhythms. A poignant large-scale installation, Scott Hudsons Bison, invites contemplation on the disruption of natural range cycles and raises questions about the historical and contemporary western landscape. Whether attempting to depict the essence of life on the range, or exploring patterns of environmental sustainability, the works selected for Rhythms of a Cowboy Poem elicit a variety of visual rhythms.
In an accompanying audiovisual presentation, recitations by three renowned cowboy poets—Joel Nelson and Andy Hedges from Texas, and Jerry Brooks from Utah—are woven together against a backdrop of dramatic Western landscapes to create a collective recitation of the prologue of Grass. The film, as well as the artworks included in Between Grass and Sky celebrate the rich heritage of cowboy poetry and are a testament to generations of voices that have contributed—and continue to contribute—to a rich, unfolding Western dialogue.