Natural selections

By GREG COOK  |  August 14, 2007

Okie’s paintings differ notably from the single painting on exhibit by Little Joe — an open composition of violet and turquoise dots. Moores explains that Joe, who escaped twice in 2003, “doesn’t enjoy it as much as Okie does. Joe will just touch the paint with one finger, and just touch it, touch it, touch it. Then he usually immediately goes and washes his hands.”

In the ’80s, Koko and Michael, gorillas at the Gorilla Foundation in California who were taught to communicate with people via American Sign Language, painted what at first appear to be simple abstractions. But their keepers write that an orange-and-green blob filling the left side of an otherwise empty paper is Michael’s rendering of a bell pepper. And his swirling black-and-white composition was intended as a portrait of a black-and-white dog running.

The images aren’t obvious, but one could argue that they’re no more obscure than the subjects of a child’s drawing. Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal, however, remains dubious in his 2001 book The Ape and the Sushi Master: “I’ve never been able to recognize the purported images in their paintings.” He argues that ape artists are driven by the physical act of artmaking but could care less about the final object. And he believes that this delight in the process, which was also the hallmark of mid-20th-century modern art, “provides a glimpse into the wellspring of the universal human artistic impulse.”

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  | 
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Health and Fitness, Hearing Loss and Deafness, Mammals,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY GREG COOK
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   SEEING ANEW  |  July 09, 2014
    The aim of the RISD Museum’s eight newly renovated galleries for its permanent collection of fashion and Egyptian and Asian art seems to be “quiet contemplation.”
  •   BRIGHTNESS AND DARKNESS  |  June 25, 2014
    Constellations of mirror ball clouds dangle from the ceiling on pink cords at the center of the room and slowly rotate and sparkle. You’re invited to peer though weird, lumpy crystal-telescope-things.
  •   FIGHTING THE POWER  |  June 18, 2014
    It was around 1983 when Providence artist James Montford and a friend posed as photographers to check out the Ku Klux Klan rally in Norwalk, Connecticut.
  •   'VERY PROVIDENCEY'  |  June 11, 2014
    “World building” is an idea that percolates — perhaps unconsciously — through the visionary end of the Providence art scene.
  •   HISTORY LESSON  |  June 04, 2014
    The portrait of the sculptor Nancy Elizabeth Prophet (1890-1960) that emerges from the small exhibit “Delicious Sensation of Rightness,” at the John Brown House, is fuzzy.

 See all articles by: GREG COOK