Painted wood on walnut base
6.8 x 30.7 x 8.5 inches
Collection of the Wharton Esherick Museum
Images courtesy of Eoin O’Neill and the Wharton Esherick Museum Collection.
Small sculptures like The Race were among the first three-dimensional objects Esherick made after his initial experimentation with carving wood for frames and printing blocks, a result of his time in the single-tax artists’ colony of Fairhope, Alabama. Made for his children, The Race is a version of an already extant horse racing game played with dice, which accompany this set. Carved in wood and painted in monochromatic colors, the new style that Esherick used for these figures emphasized their sense of speed and movement through sharp angles and exaggerated curvature. Envisioning a potential for popularity, Esherick cast his riders in bronze; the museum also has multiple examples of this type in its collection. Esherick mounted the original carvings on wood, as depicted above, in the 1950s. The Race was one of a number of games — including numerous chess sets — that Esherick created throughout his career, which were the subject of the museum’s exhibition Fun and Games (2015). This interest links to a focus on play that runs across his work and which can be seen in his personal motto: “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing.”
This blog post that explores a recently uncovered drawing focused on Esherick’s daily family life includes a depiction of The Race.
A bronze casting of The Race shows up as a decoration on the desk of an art collector (actor Bryan Cranston) in the movie The Upside (2017). See a still from the film here.