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Animal House: Art Gone Wild

SAW Gallery, Ottawa Aug 1 to Sep 26 2009
Kira Ayn Varszegi  <I>Koopa at work</I>  2007 Kira Ayn Varszegi Koopa at work 2007

Kira Ayn Varszegi <I>Koopa at work</I> 2007

In what is being billed as the “first ever critical overview of animal art,” SAW Gallery curator Stefan St-Laurent has assembled a diverse body of artworks created by more than dozen animals (and a few of their owners/artistic collaborators) for the exhibition “Animal House: Works of Art Made By Animals.” Featuring pieces by dogs, cats, elephants, chimpanzees, gorillas and even a turtle, the show traces human interest in art created by animals from its inception in the early 19th century through to its more recent commercial popularity (evidenced by images such as Garry-Lewis James Osterberg (chihuahua) with his first cheque). While the title of the show might evoke a sense of whimsy and many of the animals’ paintings and performances seem like playful experimentation, the exhibition poses some serious questions about exploitation, anthropomorphism and the rhetoric that has been used around animal art in order to devalue human-made abstract expressionism. Though its roster of artists is drawn from the animal kingdom, “Animal House” makes it clear that what is actually at stake in animal-produced art is our complex and shifting human connections to the natural world. (67 Nicholas St, Ottawa ON)

This article was first published online on August 13, 2009.

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