Railbird is a term for a spectator at a horse race, and while the word derives from someone who sits near the track, it doesn't apply only to punters with their money on the bobtail nag; it can mean any racing enthusiast. As Degas knew, the track can make an excellent subject for art. Emily Sundblad evidently agrees, as her oil pastels on racing forms, which depict jockeys and their steeds, capture the pastoral grandeur of the sport of kings, as well as a sense of what's at stake.
Sundblad's use of tip sheets from Aqueduct and Santa Anita Park necessarily limits the size of her drawings, though their intimate scale draws you towards them, an effect aided by the way they works have been been installed: A bare nine pieces in all, framed in light wood and hung so that almost every one of them holds down an entire wall by itself. A bale of hay near the show's entrance adds a nice sculptural touch that also serves as minimalistic reminder of the contrast between the paddock's stillness and the explosive, if brief, action out on the turf.
Floating over printed columns of horses' names and numerical odds, Sundblad's quickly slashed lines of color shudder with velocity in a way that's meant to echo, I think, horse racing's speed, the whirl of movement on which so many wagers depend. And while her style ultimately recalls an unlikely mix of Elizabeth Peyton and LeRoy Neiman, it works somehow to forever freeze that moment before winning or losing, elation or despair.—Howard Halle