June 15 - December 11, 2022

Andrea Modica

Theatrum Equorum

“I began photographing with my 8X10 inch view camera at a horse hospital in the small town of Budrio di Bagnarola in northern Italy. The facility is owned by the prominent veterinary surgeon and artist Fabio Torre and it attracts remarkable and, generally, very valuable horses for a range of procedures. I was immediately drawn to the contrast of these magnificent animals rendered so vulnerable. Initially I focused on the horses in their post-operative recovery rooms: simple padded stalls with overhead windows, which produce lovely, filtered light. The floors are covered with the doctor’s recycled shredded junk mail, medical journals and art magazines. The stalls are at once theatrical stages and humble boxes. In these photographs the horses are in a state of post-operative anesthetic sleep. They are recovering from operations that include, among other things, fracture repairs, complicated dental work and castrations.” - Andrea Modica

Theatrum Equorum represents eight-years of Andrea Modica’s photographic encounters at a Northern Italian equine clinic—where veterinary surgeons undertake routine and life-saving procedures—and at equine breeding facilities throughout the US. Through the lens of her large-format camera, Modica renders horses uncanny, revealing a curious and majestic vulnerability. In studies both tender and unsettling, the artist captures post-surgical animals in states of recovery from procedures like fracture repair and tooth extraction and highlights surgical tools essential to the healing process. Still lifes of pre- and post-operative surgical instruments—pristine or bloodied, methodical or disarrayed—imbue these states of induced tranquility with a sense of unease. This series also features Modica’s first foray into moving images: intimate portraits of horses as they drift into surgical anesthetic sleep.

Alongside Theatrum Equorum, Modica’s series 2020 chronicles months of pandemic lockdown through images of progressively degrading cardboard boxes collecting in the artist’s driveway, each identified by its contents and date of receipt. Here, the seemingly familiar and mundane form of a cardboard box emerges peculiar and exposed, capturing the uncertainty of this period.

Since its inception, photography has been used to archive, inventory, and classify. One of the inventors and earliest practitioners of the medium, William Henry Fox Talbot, published The Pencil of Nature (1844), in which he documents collections of objects remarkable for their “strange and fantastic forms.” This same impulse is present in Modica’s work; 2020 presents a visual study of pedestrian objects as they transmogrify through exposure to time and the elements, while Theatrum Equorum explores specialized veterinary surgical tools and equine breeding equipment, as pictured in the “phantoms” sequence.

Theatrum Equorum also conjures the significant history of the surgical theater motif in art of our region. Philadelphia painter and photographer Thomas Eakins debuted Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic) (1875) at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, though the selection committee deemed Eakins’ naturalistic portrayal of an in-progress surgery too provocative to appear in the art building (it was instead exhibited in a model building of a military field hospital). The painting has since become an icon of American Realism—and of the City of Philadelphia—and is a highlight of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection. Modica’s series highlights the veterinary surgical theater as a site where dramas of equine medicine unfold with disquieting dignity, bathed in luminosity reminiscent of Renaissance painting.

About Andrea Modica

Andrea Modica was born in New York City and lives in Philadelphia, where she works as a photographer and teaches at Drexel University. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fulbright Scholar and the recipient of a Knight Award.

She is known for portrait photography and for her use of platinum printing, created using an 8”x10” large format camera.

The images in this exhibition are featured in her new book, Theatrum Equorum.

Follow Andrea Modica on Instagram and Facebook

All Berman Museum exhibitions are free and open to the public.

Join us at two events featuring Andrea Modica: 

October 11, 2022: An Evening of Discussion with Andrea Modica at The Print Center

October 26, 2022: Exhibition Tour with Andrea Modica

This exhibition has been made possible with the support of The Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation.