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Congo and Jackson Pollock: Maestro

Jul 15 - Aug 30, 2020

Congo and Jackson Pollock

SHIN GALLERY is pleased to present works on paper by Congo and Jackson Pollock. At the height of Abstract Expressionism, both artists garnered immense international fame for their non-representational and avant-garde action pieces. The exhibition aims to acknowledge their legacies with a keen focus on Congo; a chimpanzee who explored the limits of abstraction just as his contemporary Jackson Pollock.

Born in 1954, Congo the chimpanzee became renowned for his symmetrical patterns and distinctive gestural approach. His artistic career began at the age of two when zoologist, author, and surrealist painter Desmond Morris offered Congo a pencil. Shortly after, Morris discovered the chimp could draw circles and synthesize compositional structure. Congo was mindful of complementary tones and hues, and instinctively juxtaposed colors to demonstrate balance in his work. Similar to Cy Twombly’s ‘freely scribbled’ symbolic pieces, Congo communicated a unique painterly language through expressive drawings and paintings.

As Morris continued to allow Congo to paint, the chimpanzee’s obsession for painting accelerated. Congo´s ability to experiment with abstract patterns and alter them in creative ways became clear evidence that the mind of a non-human had the same innate urge and understanding to make articulate visual works of art.

The talented chimpanzee made about 400 drawings and paintings. Congo appeared on the British animal TV show called Zootime in the late 1950s and quickly rose to stardom. Collectors who acquired Congo’s works included Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Roland Penrose, Jock Whitney, William Copley, Julian Huxley, Herbert Read, Solly Zuckerman, Sidney Bernstein, Princess Zeid, Prince Philip, among many others. Private collector Howard Hong stated Congo’s paintings “represent the complete evolution of mankind.”

During the 1950s, the work by Jackson Pollock was in increasingly high demand. An art-historical pioneer, Pollock’s technique of pouring liquid paint onto a horizontal surface became the epitome of the American abstract expressionist movement. Driven by the instinctual yet improvised application of paint, both Congo and Pollock´s work consist of flinging and dripping paint onto their mediums in a performative manner. Salvador Dali compared Congo’s work to Jackson Pollock, saying, “The hand of the chimpanzee is quasi-human; the hand of Jackson Pollock is totally animal!”

Although the media enjoyed reporting the work of Congo’s, revolutionary artists like Salvador Dali saw compositional flair and consistent artistic themes. For some artists, his abilities even outshone those of his human contemporaries. Congo’s aptitude to create repeated motifs through forms and patterns, only further demonstrated the inventive aestheticism he possessed. Congo passed away in London at the age of ten, though short-lived, his career ended with a postmodern bang.

For press inquires, contact Stavroula Coulianidis: stavroula@shin-gallery.com