Back in 1954, the English zoologist and surrealist painter Desmond Morris—author of 1967’s The Naked Ape, a best-selling study of Homo sapiens—visited a zoo and offered a chimpanzee, Congo, his pencil. With growing astonishment, Morris watched Congo draw circles and abstract patterns. The more Congo painted, the greater his obsession with the medium. Congo’s artistic language, described as “freely scribbled,” was much like the Abstract Expressionism of the period. Salvador Dali compared Congo’s work to Jackson Pollock’s, saying, “The hand of the chimpanzee is quasi-human; the hand of Jackson Pollock is totally animal.” This exhibition places human and non-human “action” painting side by side. —E.C.
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