For her second solo exhibition at ZieherSmith, Rachel Owens stages the finale to a fantastical fox-hunt that will upheave the gallery in a metaphoric statement on our western power structure. As efforts relating to the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and others come under further scrutiny, American strength seems to have turned into folly. Owens continues to use humor and fable-like narrative to explore such issues, while juxtaposing aspects of traditional art-making approaches with rough techniques and unconventional materials.

Owens’s installation features dogs (seen previously as cardboard-constructed warriors/victims in the “fight against terrorism”), here roughly molded in plaster and joined by a master on horseback in a futile fox-hunt. In their excitement and determination to catch their prey, the loyal creatures foolishly destroy and upend the terrain. As the result of Owens’s plot, the gallery floor will rise in a wave; the horse bucks, leaving the rider facedown on the ground. While the dogs run circles and tear at the earth, the fox is nowhere to be found. Green glass vines, made of broken bottles, creep towards the ashen scene from beneath the peeling floor.

Beyond this chaos, trophy heads of the hunters hang from the wall. It is unclear if these pieces are intended as commemoration of victory or defeat. Owens’s accompanying watercolors depict proper, red-coated hunters in farcical, bloody hunt scenes as well as a portrait of the devious fox. Using the conventional medium in her raw style, Owens references British examples from the late 19th century (the time that also marked that empire’s decline).

Owens’s previous installations, including the giant squirrel of ZieherSmith’s Scatter Hoarder and the Trojan horses in Lehman Maupin’s Some Exhaust, have addressed the merits and the repercussions of American political intervention, admitting recent actions as ones of aggression but also reflecting on the potential value of human resilience.

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