Manetti Shrem Museum Review: Deborah Butterfield's Horses a Must-See

Shiva Ahmadi and Malaquias Montoya’s Exhibits Closing May 6

three horse scultpures in a gallery
Deborah Butterfield’s exhibit “P.S. These are not horses” is on display at the Manetti Shrem Museum until May 6th (Courtesy, Jamie Gelfond).
Neon sign with pink letters spelling out “This present moment used to be the unimaginable future.”
Alicia Eggert's neon sign (Coutesy Jamie Gelfond)

The Manetti Shrem Museum lies on the outskirts of the UC Davis campus in a building covered by a sprawling white aluminum canopy. While the outside of the building impresses those passing by, the flashing neon sign by artist Alicia Eggert now on display beckons people even from across the street: Step inside the building. It reads: “This present moment used to be the unimaginable future.” Among the sculptures outside is one depicting a horse, which also hints at what is inside.

The museum has a “Free for All” policy, meaning no tickets or reservations are required, so once you step foot in the museum you are welcome to look around regardless if you had planned in advance. 

mud and stick sculpture of a horse
Untitled by Deborah Butterfield (Courtesy, Jamie Gelfond)

Upon entering the gallery, Deborah Butterfield’s exhibit “P.S. These are not horses” stands front and center. In a piece labeled Untitled made in 1978, Butterfield uses materials that could be found on a farm near horses to create a small horse-like sculpture. The implementation of steel, chicken wire, mud, paper pulp, dextrine, grasses, and sticks give the piece a very rural element that truly makes it feel inspired by the life and location in which horses live.

In the gallery adjacent to the entrance, three life-size horse sculptures command the attention of museum goers. The pieces John (1984), Maluhia (1986), and Uha’Ula’Ula (1986) are created using found steel that has been welded together. What differentiates these pieces from other sculptures is the realistic poses and attitudes of the horses. The Butterfield exhibition is on view through June 24.

The Butterfield Exhibition has been extended through June 30.


three horse scultpures in a gallery
John (1984), Maluhia (1986), and Uha’Ula’Ula (1986) by Deborah Butterfield (Courtesy, Jamie Gelfond)

Also on view is Shiva Ahmadi: Strands of Resilience. Through the use of bright colors, Ahmadi creates stories of womanhood, migration and brutality. It is Ahmadi’s first solo museum exhibition on the West Coast as well as the Manetti Shrem Museum’s first solo exhibition with a current art faculty member. It closes May 6. Read a profile of her.

Also closing May 6 is Malaquias Montoya’s Legacies of a Printed Resistance. Montoya is professor emeritus of Chicana/o Studies at UC Davis. His work combines bold graphics and bold color to create messages on global oppression, although he is best known for his murals both on campus and throughout many cities. Read more about Butterfield and Montoya in this story about the opening. 

Before these incredible exhibits leave the Manetti Shrem Museum, be sure to stop by and see them for yourself!

Learn more about the Manetti Shrem Museum, their location, and hours here. 

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Arts Blog Editor: Karen Nikos-Rose,

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