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Sarah Miska at Night Gallery


Sarah Miska’s paintings take horse and rider as their subject matter. Her new exhibition at Night Gallery, High Stakes, zooms in on race horses and their riders. Many feature jockeys’ hunched bodies draped in billowing fabrics that are rendered with precise detail; with the heads often cropped out of the scene, Miska highlights the performativity, costuming, and opulence of the sport. In one, Trifecta, three jockeys are seen with raised bottoms, hovering above their horses, presumably amidst a race. Their uniforms seem to flow seamlessly into the dressage their horses don, making their squat postures appear all the more absurd. Elsewhere, the jockey is omitted altogether and the horse itself takes center stage. Still, close cropping remains a constant. Whether cropped tightly on the head of a horse caged in by bars (as in The Starting Gate), or zoomed in on the legs and hooves of sprinting horses as they muscularly kick up dirt (in Wager), Miska’s cropped compositions seem to use horse racing as a metaphor for something a bit more psychological. Whether interrogating the anticipatory action, the absurd levels of grooming, training, and control, or the absurdity of regalia that the sport entails, High Stakes uses the equine to speak to larger cultural concerns.

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Photo: Sarah Miska, Post Position (2023). Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 96 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Night Gallery. Photo: Nik Massey