About the exhibition

The exhibition Cowboy will bring together loans and new commissions from 27 artists representing a wide range of perspectives including Asian American artists, Latinx artists, and Native artists. The exhibition aims to shift the narrative of this figure’s cultural power and significance to be both historically accurate and creatively imaginative. 

“This sweeping exhibition will explore the origins of the American cowboy and how the figure and its mythology persist today. Cowboy speaks to the museum’s ambition to challenge, revise, and reconceive how such a myth originated and might be probed in exciting, courageous, and nuanced ways,” said Nora Burnett Abrams, Mark G. Falcone Director of MCA Denver.

“The American cowboy is vividly and enduringly present in the popular mindset, as a character, a seductive ideal, and as a laborer, but most established narratives fail to acknowledge the wildly diverse histories and lived experiences surrounding this profession,” added Miranda Lash, Ellen Bruss Senior Curator at MCA Denver.

The exhibition asks: How does the myth of the cowboy exist today? How has the cowboy as an archetype of masculinity shaped how we think about gender now? What assumptions do we have about cowboys’ relationship to the land and how does this relate to the real, lived experiences of contemporary cowboys? By presenting a broad range of perspectives, this exhibition aims to break apart the homogenous ideal of the cowboy as a white, cisgender American male and showcase the diverse manifestations of this figure across many different communities and in a variety of media. 

Featuring artworks largely made during recent years, Cowboy will include contributions by John Baldessari, R. Alan Brooks, Mel Chin, Gregg Deal, Angela Ellsworth, rafa esparza, Juan Fuentes, Karl Haendel, Luis Jiménez, Kahlil Joseph, Deana Lawson, Grace Kennison, Matthew J. Mahoney, Laurel Nakadate, Richard Prince, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Akasha Rabut, Lucy Raven, Ken Taylor Reynaga, Jaye Rhee, Yumi Roth & Emmanuel David, Ana Segovia, Amy Sherald, Stephanie Syjuco, Kenneth Tam, Andy Warhol, and Nathan Young. The exhibition will also include newly commissioned work by rafa esparza and Nathan Young, as well as Colorado-based artists R. Alan Brooks and Gregg Deal. 

A fully illustrated catalogue co-published with Rizzoli will accompany the exhibition with essays by Nora Burnett Abrams, Myeshia Babers, Jongwoo Jeremy Kim, an interview with rafa esparza by Miranda Lash, and a graphic essay by R. Alan Brooks. The catalogue is produced through the special support of the Blue Rider Group of Morgan Stanley.

Lead support for this exhibition is generously provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Special support for this exhibition is given by Visions West Contemporary.


View artwork featured in the exhibition:

Curated by
Nora Burnett Abrams, MCA Denver's Mark G. Falcone Director
Miranda Lash, MCA Denver's Ellen Bruss Senior Curator

Informative Text
On view from September 29, 2023 to February 18, 2024


Want to expand your experience of Cowboy? Download our FREE digital museum guide on Bloomberg Connects for exclusive audio content featuring select artworks.

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Lead support for Cowboy is generously provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Special support is given by Visions West Contemporary and the Harmes C. Fishback Foundation. Additional support is provided by Nicole and Craig Harrison.


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The Cowboy exhibition catalogue was produced with special support from the Blue Rider Group of Morgan Stanley. MCA Denver also thanks the citizens of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District for their support of the exhibition.

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