Nine Lives

Johanna Fateman, The New Yorker, August 9, 2021

A charming cat-themed show, at Fortnight Institute, graces the dog days of summer, but its whimsical premise is a bit of a feint. Nearly two dozen works—most of them small canvases completed this year—map the anything-goes state of figurative painting today, with an emphasis on Surrealism, folk-art traditions, and mythological sources. Images by the Polish artist Aleksandra Waliszewska and the Nigerian American Chioma Ebinama may be visual opposites, but they share an iconographic quality. In the former portrait, a black cat’s face dissolves into a ghostly Darth Vader-ish silhouette; in the latter, delicately rendered in sumi ink, a human-feline hybrid paws at a dead bird. Not all the animals here are so symbolically weighty: in the wry landscape “Among the Chaparral,” by the Los Angeles-based Paige Turner-Uribe, a Monet-inspired vista is casually visited by a black-and-white cat in the middle distance.