Anthropogenesis is a group exhibition exploring the role of animal-based imagery in contemporary artistic practice, curated by Ariel Evans and Lauren Hamer, Ph.D. students in Art History, and featuring work by Kelly Rae Burns, Kristina Felix, Jules Buck Jones, Jonathon Keats, Jill Pangallo, and S.E. Smith.
The exhibition showcases the work of six contemporary artists who use animal imagery in ways ranging from exercises in draftsmanship to explorations of non-human consciousnesses. Jonathan Keats’ ballet for honeybees assumes an insect audience and performers. Jules Buck Jones’ new paintings of birds, reptiles and amphibians reference mankind’s taxonomic organization of animal species. Some artists, like Kelly Rae Burns, merge totemic human and animal forms, while others relate human and animal identities. Anthropogenesis considers animals and animal behavior as an artistic source.
Animal imagery in contemporary art echoes the ubiquity of such imagery in visual culture at large. The explosion of websites and YouTube videos dedicated to animals testifies to society’s collective regard of animals. Absurd anthropomorphizations abound on sites like CuteOverload or LOLcats: millions watch as dogs prove excellent dancers, hamsters enjoy carefully prepared meals and baby pandas sneeze. The works in Anthropogenesis, much like these internet memes, share a concern with the association and even conflation of animal forms, gestures and emotions with our own.
The word “anthropogenesis” refers to the moment when man distinguishes himself from the animal. Historically, thinkers have split man from beast based on the human capacity for language, possession of an immortal soul or man’s ability to resist instinctual imperatives. However, the ways in which humans now project themselves into animals—and vice versa—may imply something new about our relationship to other creatures. As animals come to play human better than we, perhaps the man/beast distinction begins to evaporate.
Anthropogenesis is presented by Center Space Project, the student organization of the Visual Arts Center, which works collaboratively with fellow students, faculty, alumni and visiting artists to create engaging shows and programs, promoting a strong student presence in the VAC.
Center Space Project is grateful to the University Co-op for its generosity in supporting Anthropogenesis.