Animal Instincts

Ibiayi Briggs
Dec 12, 2012 11:53PM
It Makes Me Think of That Awful Day on the Island, State II, 2011
Paul Kasmin Gallery

"Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to." -Mark Twain

The intensity with which Walton Ford and Laurie Hogin's animals convey human emotions is unsettling. In last year's Walton Ford exhibit at Paul Kasmin gallery I was confronted by three fearsomely massive portraits of King Kong in varying states of distress. During last week's Pulse Miami Schroeder Romero presented these small, vivid paintings of sinister guinea pigs with titles that allude to the dangers of self-medication.

However, my visceral reaction to both works goes beyond the surprise of being confronted with the raw emotion of truly enraged animals. Both artists have created work that critiques colonial and imperialist histories, with their animals becoming stand-ins for the violence, despair, and depravity of a past littered with war and slavery. But, what was more stirring about the King Kong portraits and Pharmaceutical Guinea Pigs was their more personal nature. Rather than broader critiques of a dark past, these works hint at internal struggles with fear, vanity, and pain. These allegories of internal conflict are heartbreaking and sometimes blush-inducing, but they're a powerful and needed means of self-reflection.

For more insight into Walton Ford's work check out this great interview by Paul Gachot in Slake Magazine or the artist's feature on art21

Laurie Hogin provides historical context to some of her earlier work here.

Ibiayi Briggs