New York

Congo, 22nd Painting Session, 1957, oil and pastel on paper, 10 1/2 × 15 1/2".

Congo, 22nd Painting Session, 1957, oil and pastel on paper, 10 1/2 × 15 1/2".

Congo and Jackson Pollock

SHIN GALLERY

In 1975, Joseph Beuys declared that “every person is an artist.” If the paintings created by Congo—a male chimpanzee who began his career in 1956, the year Jackson Pollock died—are works of art, then it seems that every living creature can be an artist . . . or at the very least a painter.

English zoologist (and Surrealist painter) Desmond Morris wrote that he used Congo as a tool for research into “the origins of aesthetics,” which proved that “the chimpanzee brain is capable of creating abstract patterns that are under visual control.” A fanlike arrangement of strokes and/or lines was Congo’s preferred subject, which he produced over and over again in a variety of intricate—dare one say ingenious?—compositions, suggesting that he had an experimental and inquisitive mind, not too unlike that of your typical modern artist. Or was Congo’s notoriety merely a function of novelty? If it was,

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