A Trend? Archery in Art

  • Last night at the Independent, a luscious purple painting by Robert Elfgen caught our eye in Sprüth Magers’ section. Dated 2012, its titled das kritisierte bild, which translates from the German to something like “criticized the picture.” Despite its title, this is no academic exercise. Mr. Elfgen actually shot the fabric painting with an arrow. But he is not the only contemporary artist interested in archery. Egan Frantz recently created a piece by shooting an arrow from Brooklyn’s Clearing gallery to a nearby billboard. That one is titled Clearly Addressed. Is a modest bow-and-arrow boomlet rising? While we’d need one more recent work to call it a trend (readers, please do share works in the comments section below), we thought we’d take a look at the modern history of arrow art. Click the slide show above for a brief guide to the subject.

  • Is there a renegade archer loose in Bushwick? Not as far as we know. That is an artwork by Egan Frantz.
    Photo by Andrew Russeth

  • Ms. Abramović and one-time lover Ulay were early pioneers in performance art involving archery, as seen here in this seminal piece.
    Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery

  • Japanese artist Hiro Kosaka has involved archery in a number of his performance in Los Angeles. Describing one piece he completed in the 1980s, in the book Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia, Mr. Kosaka shared of his shooting practice: " order to make a perfect shot, you have to take immediate action without intermediate thoughts. When I am almost ready to shoot, I have to listen to my heartbeat and reduce it to forty beats a minute. I have to shoot in between the heartbeats because if I shoot on the heartbeat, the arrow blurs. That is the whole notion of that piece—it is about the in-between."
    Courtesy the artist

  • While archers have appeared in painting for hundreds of years, Kandinsky was one of the first to drag the subject into the realm of modernism. This work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
    Courtesy the Museum of Modern Art