SOFT AND FUZZY A detail from Nixon's 'Cats 8-9-10.'
The oil paintings in “Andrew Nixon: The Attitudes of Animals In Motion,” at Cade Tompkins Projects (198 Hope St, Providence, through December 28), are inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s landmark photographic studies of horses, pigs, deer, and dogs trotting around that he first published in 1887.
Nixon’s touch is soft and fuzzy, somewhere between the lite drollness of a New Yorker magazine cover (as in a past work of a jockey scanning a map as his horse rounds a track) and the haziness of memory. The paintings have something of the charming awkwardness of folk art, too — these images are inspired by photos of animals in motion, but the proportions are a bit off and instead of a sense of action, his cats and oxen and leaping horses seem like they’re carved from wood.
Muybridge’s multiple frozen images of each animal are referenced via single paintings featuring multiple sequential images of an ox strolling, a dog trotting, a white cat leaping. One of the larger canvases is a single image of an Elephant Walking. It’s a big gray beast, one front leg in the air as it lumbers along a pasty red floor. Details have evaporated, like the eye and wrinkles except around the ear and back leg. Rather it’s a walking shadow, the idea of an elephant, that manages to feel sort of sad and tired and trapped.
Follow Greg Cook on Twitter @AestheticResear.