Paul Koudounaris, “Kitty Warhol” (2016).
Cat Art Show 2: The Sequel at Think Tank Gallery was exactly what you’d expect it to be: a collection of various portraits, interpretations and visualizations of more than 75 artists’ portrayals of the familiar feline, an homage to the malleable pussy and the human obsession with it. Yet with a theme as broad and playful as “cats,” there’s no real conceptual premise to this show, making it akin to a joke without a punchline, or story without an ending.
On opening night, there was a line out the door and down the street to get into this salon-style exhibition. Some people dressed up as cats, while others brought their hairless cat with them. (The man with the hairless cat told me that his cat has an Instagram account; unfortunately I forgot the name of said kitty.) Another woman in line told me that she is a “total cat lady” and owns six cats.
There were certainly some cat gems in this show that felt more like art and less like a general cat obsession. One of the funnier, more high-brow-y cat art pieces in this show was art historian Paul Koudounaris’ Kitty Warhol (2016), a portrait of a basic tabby wearing a blonde Warhol wig and circular-frame sunglasses, posing in front of an array of Campbell soup cans. A friend I went to the show with, comedian Kyla McCracken, observed: “I wonder how he got the cat to stay pose for so long.”
Another riff on art history occurred in Britt Ehringer’s “#Fridakatlobrow” (2016), in which the artist combines the faces of cats with a collection of flowers all atop Frida Kahlo’s head. We see only Frida’s face from the nose up, her dark eyes mirroring the kitties’ intensity!
In another painting, Michael Caines’ “Smoking Cat” (2016), a basic tabby smokes a cigarette in front of delicate colonial wallpaper. The cigarette is as slim as a Virginia Slim, but it seems to be in the style of a Camel Light.
The quiet, uncanny, ballpoint pen, ink and graphite drawings of Maui-born artist Edwin Ushiro are tucked away toward the very back of the gallery, far from the louder cats upfront. In “Rusty,” we see an orange tabby in nine positions of play and repose, depicting the feline in its element, just wandering about, looking for something entertaining to do.
Truly, every person who attended this show was lured in by their love for cats, and found themselves wondering about artist interpretations of the feline form. Unlike dogs, cats are notoriously aloof, self-sufficient, and generally indifferent. If dogs are intense and attentive, cats are chill and uninterested. It’s always relevant to ask oneself, especially at a show like this, if you’re a cat person or a dog person.
All in all, the cat art was feline-friendly fun, but can an art show be “good” if it is also pure entertainment? It’s a question that came up recently in an interview with comedian Kate Berlant, during which I said: “Art humor is usually pretty dry and not very ‘haha’ funny, whereas comedy has to make the audience laugh out loud.” Berlant replied: “Also art isn’t supposed to be entertainment and comedy is.”
What do you think?