“The cowboy has been written about as if it were the pinnacle of freedom … In fact, it was a sleepless drudgery almost beyond imagination.” So says writer Philipp Meyer in his exceptional 2013 novel The Son. Whether our interpretation of this mythological figure comes from Kit Carson dime novels, Clint Eastwood westerns, comic books, or Marlboro ads, the image of the cowboy is central to American identity. #RAWHIDE, a show curated by Dylan Brant and Vivian Brodie at Venus Over Manhattan this month, exposes the role artists have played in shaping this archetype. The show includes a vast array of works, ranging from gritty “Wild West” cowhands by 19th-century masters like Frederic Remington to pop paintings such as Andy Warhol’s portrait of Dennis Hopper and Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-strip-inspired portrayals of cowboys and Indians. “Ultimately, this show deals with the fabrication of a figure,” says Brant, “and how artists have influenced that fabrication.”
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