His art proves to be by a… horse of a different color... Cholla the painting horse's solo show in Venice, the first outside US
Though only twenty-three, his artwork has been described as having the "fire of Pollock". Yet what makes the description intriguing is that the artist is a mustang-quarterhorse mix who lives in Nevada and paints by holding the brush in his mouth.
Cholla's paintings have been featured in art exhibits from San Francisco to New York and, now, overseas. During the Biennale period (until 22 November 2009, following his first personal exhibit abroad) 30 watercolours by Cholla have been exclusively shown in Venice at the Giudecca 795 Art Gallery, which is planning other exhibits of Cholla's works around the world. Internationally, he is already considered one of the four most sought after animal artists; Congo the chimpanzee from the '50s whose paintings are now sold at the same sales as those of Andy Warhol, is slightly ahead. Because of its success and the media interest, the show has in fact been extended from 15 June to 22 November!
Are you skeptical? Watch this video (part of a recent dvd which will be screened at the gallery)
The story of the international debut of "Cholla the painting horse" is quite interesting. His work was exhibited at a juried art competition in Italy called Artelaguna, and there was some consternation among the judges when they realised that the painter was a horse. They did not expect the participation of a horse but, being that the competition was open to "anyone" without restriction and considering his prestige in the USA, the jury decided to accept his application. His watercolour received a "mention d'honneur" from the president of the Jury.
Perplexity may be the first instinctual feeling of the viewer.Yet Cholla tends to win over the public, who often appreciate his abstract designs without even knowing he is an animal. The horse's efforts are not a "stupid pet trick" - scientists and art critics are studying the case on Giudecca795 art gallery’s request, and the renowned Italian ethologist Danilo Mainardi has observed that Cholla -- a gorgeous, very intelligent, and well treated horse -- seems happy when he "paints" (probably as a way to communicate with his owner? we ask). The astonishing thing about Cholla is that he can decide if and when to paint, can pick the colors by himself, and then paint on a strong easel. Being a huge and semi-wild horse whose movements are difficult to control, the act of picking the color and painting without "destroying the scene" is already something rare. And, needless to say, he has done this without any training. A video, which will be screened in Venice at Giudecca 795, shows this process very clearly. A catalogue is being published, with comments by professor Mainardi and…..
Rosalba Giorcelli, artistic director at the Giudecca 795 Art Gallery, said she and her associate were both incredibly attracted and very curious after seeing Cholla's work at Arte Laguna. "The more we learned about Cholla, the more we were thrilled."
The main question: is this "art"? "We are too involved to tell," Giorcelli replies with a smile. "Cholla is 'natural' and instinctive by definition, his strokes are real 'primary signs', he is not imitating any artist, and… we appreciate this very much. If not art, we like to think it may be a view into the animal's unconsciousness and consciousness - it's a horse trying to communicate with us, and it's something people like. It's amazing, it's gorgeous, it's a contemporary fairy tale."
The mention d'honneur states: "For the provocative nature of his gesture, which can be considered as an interesting and ironic evolution of the myth of abstract and informal art in its theoretical foundations and formal derivations, this award is possible under these circumstances in recognition of a unique art piece in an epoch of technical reproducibility."
Again, is this art? Who knows. People like Cholla's works, and creations crafted by animals are not a novelty. Congo was the first animal-artist to be 'discovered', was observed by Desmond Morris, and impressed Picasso and Dalì.
The horse's painting career began by accident 4 years ago, his owner Renee Chambers says.
"His work should be considered as an action, a product that gives life to emotions, controlled neither by the horse nor by the observer," art critic Viviana Siviero says. "The abstract painter Pollock preferred to work on a wall or on a floor instead of at an easel, since he liked hard surfaces better. In a way, Cholla is more impressionist, at least in his habit, since he finds his inspiration in the open air, next to his portable easel!"
Giudecca 795 Art Gallery, exclusive overseas dealer, displays 30 original watercolors by Cholla; high quality “giclee” prints are also available. Most of the works are for sale.
Curators at Giudecca 795 are very skeptical about the works created by elephants, and so is Mainardi, the expert etologist whom they consulted. "The so-called elephant artists look trained to repeat gestures with their flexible trunks, and may not be as free as Cholla is," they said.
Winner of the Honour Mention of the Arte Laguna prize Jury in 2008 with "The Big Red Buck" (on this page): "A particular mention is to be given to the decision of the Jury to expose the watercolor painted by the animal, "The Big Red Buck", next to finalist artworks. His work, even if excluded by any Prize, received a special mention of the Jury as a form of provocation, aimed to give a particular attention, not controversial, to the ironic evolution of the myth of art in a epoch of technical reproducibility." International media coverage of his solo exhibit at Giudecca 795 Art Gallery in Venice, Italy, started with Associated Press and CNN news.Check the Media page for international and Italian press coverage
Cholla started painting in April 2004. The image here on the left, named "The Big Red Buck", is one of his first watercolors (July 2004). These pages will tell you how this all began. We are also working at some info pages in other languages -- Italian first. Enquiries by journalists are welcome, and so are sponsors: thank you.
LATEST NEWS - Two more original paintings are available at the gallery, together with their own "work in progress" video! - Cholla's is affordable art! Priced less than 3000 GB pounds, according to the definition.