Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hail to the Chimp?

In offensive art news, New York Post editorial cartoonist Sean Delonas is in the Al Sharpton shame chair for allegedly conflating Travis the killer chimpanzee with our Commander-in-Chief. Personally, I don't see the resemblence. In an interesting side-note, though, this could turn into the perfect racist riposte to the law enforcement swine caricatures of the infamous Black Panther Coloring Book.

In any case, this raises an important question - when does lighthearted simian-themed doodling become a toxic demonstration of hate? And what of the great chimpanzee-related art treasures of the past? Are we to throw these beautiful canvas babies out with the critical race theory bathwater?

Field Marshal Sir Basil Chimpington. Image: Finkbuilt

But even if we give the fine art of yesteryear the great-grandfather clause treatment, we must ask whether the identity of a modern artist can absolve an image of racist implications. After all, American society has embraced the uneasy detente of only allowing certain loaded words to be used by certain people. So I must wonder - would a drawing of a dead chimpanzee automatically be a crude ethnographic insult if it were drawn by a chimpanzee?

Yes, this is a real book

Why yes, Amazon, I'd love a description.
Towards the end of the 1950s biologist, investigating the question of how art originated, came up with the idea of getting monkeys to paint pictures. Consequently, exhibitions were organized and attracted much controversy, catching the attention of artists such as Dali and Picasso. Monkey Painting places this colorful episode within the context of the human sciences. Thierry Lenain explores for the first time the origins of "monkey art" from the classic theme of the Monkey-Painter to the most recent experiments showing how this amazing activity can be part of a cultural history where modern art and evolutionary thought meet.

Ah, of course - "the classic theme of the Monkey-Painter." I think there's a chapter in The Power of Myth on that. And yes, biology pedants, I know there's a difference between a monkey and an ape. It's just more pleasant when you don't feel the need to constantly point that out. Jerks.


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