Feb. 16 2016 03:24 PM

The fur-focused group show at the San Diego Art Institute examines human/cat relations in the 21st century

“Mew-cifer” by Paul Koudounaris
Photo courtesy of the artist

There's a funny meme from a few years ago that went like this: The Internet is a lot like ancient Egypt. People write on walls and worship cats.

It's quite bizarre, really, if not wholly accurate. As of yet, I'm unaware of anyone who has ever been able to fully explain to me why the Internet is so obsessed with all things feline. An article in the New Republic came close to explaining the psychology behind it, but there almost as many theories on when and where this obsession started as there are scary cucumber cat vids.

Yes, there have been plenty of editorial musings and op-eds over the years, but very few artful explorations on the topic of Americans' unabated feline fever. An exhibition called Cat Art Show Los Angeles debuted last year at the 101/Exhibit Gallery, but even that show focused on feeding an insatiable appetite for ironic cat art rather than exploring questions about the appetite itself.

Enter Best in Show, a new multimedia exhibition at the San Diego Art Institute that attempts to address humans' rather peculiar predilections on matters of domesticated furriness. The show is juried by Jason Eppink, the curator of Digital Media at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York, and features a hodgepodge of local and national work from dozens of artists. While the show does include some work related to dogs (as someone who's more of a canine guy, I teared up watching local Lissa Corona's videos of men singing songs to their senior dogs), most of this show is rightly devoted to kitties. Highlights include Escondido artist Jon-Loren Bazan's massive mixed-media sculpture of cats unraveling an American flag, as well as Wick Alexander's large mosaic tile take on the Black Cat firework logo. While certainly smaller in scale, patrons should definitely seek out Christopher Ulivo's hilariously disturbing "Fondu Ghost Cat Massacre," a painting that, well, gives a glimpse into what it might be like if cats were as big as humans.

Best in Show is the rare type of exhibition where viewers should go out of their way to see it with a group of friends or, better yet, at one of the communal events that SDAI has planned through March 17. Events include a pet portrait and adoption event, photographer appearances, a cat fashion show and more. That's not to imply the show wouldn't elicit a chuckle if someone viewed it alone. However, it is, much like our click-and-share culture at large, just better when we know our friends are laughing with us. There are serious pieces in Best in Show from serious artists that deserve serious attention, but for the most part, this is simply a fun and timely exhibition meant to make people feel good. After all, isn't that what (furry) friends are for?

Boris the Cat
Larry Caveney

Celia Gold and Nat De Jesus in Cat Call to Action with Cindy Santos Bravo

Don't Pet My Power Tiger
Cahill Wessel

Birthing of the Ancients
Cahill Wessel

Abstract Poodle
Nathan Ritterpusch

The Hounds of Honeycakes
Pamela Jaeger


See all events on Thursday, Oct 20