Rhino Horn at the Chrysler Museum

RhinoHorn_ChryslerMuseum_Flyer

On April 26, 1974, Rhino Horn’s exhibition opened at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia.

The museum was the perfect venue for the Rhino Horn Group because of its history in promoting American Figurative Art. Walter P. Chrysler Jr., the automobile tycoon and museum’s founder, was a patron of the arts in Provincetown, Massachusetts during the late 1950’s, a period when Figurative Expressionism was at its epoch. Chrysler acquired an impressive collection of paintings by seminal Figurative Expressionists including Bob Thompson, Lester JohnsonRobert Beauchamp, Red Grooms, Jay Milder, Nicholas Sperakis, Benny Andrews, and Peter Passuntino.

In 1958 Chrysler founded the Chrysler Art Museum in the heart of Provincetown’s downtown. The Chrysler Museum was housed in a neo-classic, white clapboard structure built in the 1850’s to serve as Provincetown’s Center Methodist Church. Eventually the collection outgrew the space and in 1971 relocated to Norfolk.

The 1974 survey of recent work by Rhino Horn artists Milder, Andrews, Dean, Góngora, and Sperakis, has been the only museum scale exhibition of the group. The show was described by Dick Cossitt, the art editor for the Virginian-Pilot, as “Surreal Expressionism, a mode of painting more allied with European sources like Soutine and Ensor and Dubuffet than anything in New York.” Cossit, who noted affinities between the group and Chicago’s the Hairy Who, described the works in the exhibition as “extremely noisy things, aggressive statements absolutely bleeding with concern for the human condition”

John Levin in a review in the Ledger Star titled “Reward Lies Beneath Rhino Horn stated “you will need an open mind to view successfully the exhibit by New York’s Rhino Horn artists. The Show, which opens a month long visit Friday at the Chrysler Museum, is composed of art which makes little pretense of seeking universal understanding of its message.” Upon recognizing Rhino Horn’s vulgar distinctiveness, Levin and Cossit were both clearly challenged and impressed. Levin goes on to interoperate himself that “there is certainly very little within the art to suggest that the viewer should have an easy time of grasping what the artist wants him to know.”

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