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Image of Aluminum Horse #5

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Aluminum Horse #5

Deborah Butterfield (AKA Deborah Kay Butterfield), American, b. May 7, 1949

Creation date: 1982
Creation place: United States

Other Information

Type: Steel and Aluminum Sculpture
Medium and Support: Found metal, rebar, barbed and smooth wire, aluminum
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Accession Number: 1990.7
State/Province: Montana
Dimensions: 72 in. x 108 in. x 36 in. (182.88 cm x 274.32 cm x 91.44 cm)


Asher/Faure Gallery, Los Angeles, California ( - 1990)

San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California (1990 - )

Label Copy

December 2004
Human Presence: Works from the Museum's Collection
Deborah Butterfield
Deborah Butterfield's personalized approach is a fresh alternative to the ancient tradition of the horse in sculpture, especially as a symbol of emotional spontaneity and instinctual power. The horse often plays a role in human conflict either as a tool of war, i.e. the Trojan Horse, or as a symbol of frontierism; or as free, proud, and noble as in images from the Tang Dynasty in China. Raised in San Diego, Butterfield studied at the University of California, Davis, with several influential West Coast artists including sculptors Robert Arneson and Manuel Neri. Working in assemblage she transforms leftover industrial materials-wood, wire, or sheet metal-into open weave or patchwork horse forms. Rejecting the image of the horse as an archetypal symbolic entity, Butterfield considers her sculptures to be self-portraits or individual characters with unique personalities that bespeak instinct, but an instinct “repressed to the point of denial” and crippled by technology and reason. Art historian Donald Kuspit has noted, “…Butterfield's horse articulates the corrosive effect of instrumental reason on industrial man's body ego: underneath his robot exterior he unconsciously experiences himself as damaged in his deepest self.” Yet Butterfield responds to the wake of the information age by sculpting the “one living organism that cannot be completely broken in and down.” The horses of steel and aluminum remind us of machinery and the commodification of raw materials, while simultaneously referencing artistic tradition and cultural mythology. The horse that lies on the ground is analogous in its pose to the reclining female nude in art, while the one standing appears passive and calm, as if relaxed in a natural setting. While Butterfield's horses emphasize an organic distance from the technological advancements of humans, they also symbolize the animal within us.
Last Updated: 2/25/2009


This object was included in the following exhibitions:

American Art The San Diego Museum of Art , 11/26/2016 - 8/15/2021


This object has the following bibliographic references:

Ms. Mary Stofflet. San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, California, 1993
Page Number: 179, 204, 205, Figure Number: 205

Robert Gordon. Deborah Butterfield Harry N. Abrams, Inc.. New York, New York, 2003
Page Number: 40, 41, Figure Number: 41

Ms. Betti-Sue Hertz. San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, California, 2003
Page Number: 253, Figure Number: 253

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