Review: Welcome to This World: mnartists.org

Welcome to This World: Rabbett Before Horses Strickland’'s Paintings and Drawings


Reviewer Hannah Dentinger took in the new Rabbett Before Horses Strickland exhibition at the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth, and she came away floored by both the vision and the virtuosic execution evident in the work she found there.

This show is spectacular in every sense. The large canvases in it are all fairly new, created over the past ten years by an artist who began painting as a young man but who is now enjoying his first museum show, hosted by the Tweed Museum of Art.

Rabbett Before Horses Strickland is a figurative painter in the Western European tradition that harks back to Renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Botticelli, whose influence he is quick to acknowledge. Indeed, Strickland’s muscular, sculptural figures, captured in a variety of dynamic poses, their limbs faintly outlined in black and modeled in lifelike color, recall the figures that people Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Again, in Creation of the First Butterflies (Gaa-oshi’aad Nitam Memegwanay) Strickland deliberately evokes Botticelli’s Primavera, quoting the fluid, slow-motion dance of the three Graces. Some paintings bring to mind early Renaissance frescoes in that Strickland often favors a frieze-like arrangement of figures against a background that is featureless and flattened, as in the exquisite Nanabozho Gaagiigido Wiijayaaw Ajiaak Wag (Nanabozho Talking to Cranes), or one that is bounded by far-off outcroppings of jagged peaks like those of Leonardo’s invention (see, for example, Eclipse or Story Telling).

What is most striking about these paintings, though, is their coherence. Not only does each painting convey a sense of unity through color and composition, but the entire collection is also unified in subject matter, tone, and style: the work is unmistakably that of Strickland and no-one else.
— Hannah Dentinger, mnartists.org