Steve Carr

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1976

A Shot in the Dark (Bear Rug)

  • Purchased 2008.
  • Kauri, stain, acrylic paint
  • 2400 x 2200 x 400mm
  • 2008/037
  • 2008

Apparently testing the limits of incorrectness, Auckland-based multimedia artist Steve Carr commissioned a skilled woodcarver to realise his highly improbable carved bearskin rug.

Bearskin rugs during the Victorian and Edwardian era craze for taxidermy were almost a standard feature in British country houses, typically in a gentleman’s trophy room or study. They came to symbolise wild nature and distant lands, ultimately tamed. Carr’s project, however, has little to do with tameness, either in conception or in its surprisingly lifelike growling effect

(Beasts, 2015)

earlier labels about this work
  • Wunderbox, 28 November 2008 – 15 February 2009

    Technical finesse and mischievous humour characterise the photographs and sculptures of Auckland artist Steve Carr. Rather than pursuing grand or heroic emotions, the traditional subjects of carved figurative sculptures, this artist is interested in minor-key qualities like self-mockery, humility, mildness and tameness. The last word is especially relevant to A Shot in the Dark (Bear Rug), which looks like the kind of gruesome trophy that might rest on the floor of a late-nineteenth-century gentleman’s den, smoking room, or house museum. Bears epitomise physical threat, but this one has been tamed many times over – pushed out of life and into art. First it was shot, then eviscerated and partially stuffed, then turned into a carving, and finally displayed in an art gallery. All artworks are trophies of a sort, pieces of life that have been stilled and stored, but Carr brings this tension between stillness and life to an unusually intense pitch. How much ‘bite’ does any piece of life retain by the time it arrives in a gallery?

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The painter Graham Sutherland made this print as part of a ‘Bestiary’ published in 1968, a collection of twenty-six lithographs featuring different animals, each one suggesting a particular human-like quality. Curling tight, this armadillo may be expressing fear.

(Beasts, 2015)

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(Beasts, 2015)

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The Bruiser, C. Churchill (once the Revd), in the Character of a Russian Hercules, Regaling himself after having Kill’d the Monster Caricatura that so Sorely Gall’d his Virtuous friend, the Heaven born Wilkes
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Here’s some beastly behaviour: William Hogarth, a famous eighteenth-century British artist, trading insults with two gentlemen whom he had greatly upset. Hogarth had published an engraving attacking the journalist Charles Churchill and the politician John Wilkes, and another showing Wilkes being tried in court. Churchill, in return, published a vicious poem about Hogarth. He retaliated by making this print, picturing Churchill as a drunken bear, clutching a beer tankard and a club covered in ‘lyes’. The picture in the lower right-hand corner shows Hogarth whipping Churchill and Wilkes (as a performing bear and monkey) into line. Meanwhile, Hogarth’s pug passes judgement on Churchill’s poem.

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There is an information sheet available about this work.

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