Charlotte Dumas travels the world making evocative formal portraits of animals. She typically works in series, portraying animals characterized by their utility, social function, or by the way they relate to people. Anima, her first one-person museum exhibition in the United States, features a newly commissioned series of portraits centered on the majestic burial horses of Arlington National Cemetery. These Army horses, which belong to the Old Guard—the 3rd Infantry Regiment—carry soldiers to their final resting place in traditional military funerals. Between 2010 and 2012, Dumas photographed them in their stables and at work.
The exhibition also includes three earlier bodies of work that explore the inner lives of animals. Reverie (2005) depicts gray wolves, alone and in packs, in forested nature preserves in Sweden, Norway, and the United States. Palermo 7 (2006) is a series of close-up portraits showing racehorses, their heads tethered in place, in their hippodrome stalls in Italy and France. Heart Shaped Hole (2008) depicts stray dogs, adapting in different ways to the privation they experience on the streets of Palermo.
Dumas draws inspiration from classical portrait painting of the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age to explore the relationship between her subjects and their environment. She often presents her subjects as heroic, engaged in a struggle of sorts: against their marginalization or confinement, and against the encroachment—spatial and psychological—of people. Her portraits make us more conscious of how we look at animals in our everyday lives and provoke us to examine our own role in their stories. "The bond between mankind and animals, and the extensive history that it accompanies, is my great interest," says the artist. "I investigate how we tend to use and regard animals for our own purposes, both literally and symbolically—and the characteristics that we like to take to heart from them, and the ones we attribute to them."
Charlotte Dumas was born in Vlaardingen, the Netherlands, in 1977. She graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam in 2000 and continued her education at the Rijksakademie from 2001 to 02. Her work has been included in many group exhibitions and in solo shows in the Netherlands, Italy, France, and the United States. Dumas has published several books, each dedicated to a single portrait series. Her most recent book, Retrieved (2011), which received widespread acclaim, focuses on the surviving search and rescue dogs that assisted recovery operations following 9/11. Charlotte Dumas lives and works in both Amsterdam and New York City. She is represented by Julie Saul Gallery in New York and by Galerie Paul Andriesse in Amsterdam.
Charlotte Dumas: Anima is organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art and made possible through the support of the Mondriaan Foundation and Netherlands Cultural Services.