One of the delights in the pursuit of art is discovering young talent, especially as it first breaks ground like the first bloom in spring. You have an opportunity to witness such a phenomena in the Katie King exhibition at the Java Cup Cafe, Thou Drippy Animal: The Empty Race.
Although young, King is well travelled and her work reflects a certain cosmopolitan quality, though not necessarily urbane. Some of her best pieces explore rural and agrarian life: sheep, a portrait of a horse, flowers in a window box. There are also city scenes, but this isn’t a travelogue. Indeed the appeal is that the subjects could be found anywhere, or, perhaps more accurately, the subjects are scarcely relevant. The sheep being herded could just as easily be humans being herded. A ship sailing at night becomes white moving in blackness.
These are abstractions but not abstract expressionism. It is photography exploring its representational boundaries. Photography by definition is always of something. These photographs blur that somethingness, not to the point of abstract expressions of form and color, but to an abstract somethingness. The horse staring at you with dark orbital sockets could be any being staring at you, from an old man to an alien to God. This work was inspired by the play Equus, which the artist saw in London with Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame in 2007, in which a disturbed soul conflates a horse with God, exclaiming:
“He sees you, he sees you forever and ever, Alan. He sees you!…He sees you!”
A similar allusion to the divine animal is found in the poem “An Anna Blume” by Kurt Schwitter, from which the exhibition takes its title. In some odd respect it summarizes the work displayed in Thou Drippy Animal:
Blue is the colour of your yellow hair
Red is the whirl of your green wheels,
Thou simple maiden in everyday dress,
Thou small green animal,
I love thine!
Thou thee thee thine, I thine, thou mine, we?
King, who spent time in Switzerland, one of the birthplaces of Dadaism, is heavily influenced by the movement, and her work, indeed the entire exhibition, bears a certain Cabaret Voltaire ambiance. This might be expected considering the artist is also an actress working with the CORE Theatre Ensemble preparing to put on a production of Alduous Huxley’s Brave New World. The Java Cup Café is the perfect venue for this work by this artist at this time. King’s work will undoubtedly be featured in future gallery exhibitions, but the time and place to see this generation of work is definitely in the deliberately informal, salon like atmosphere afforded by the café.
Thou Drippy Animal: The Empty Race is exhibiting at the Java Cup Cafe, 7943 Shore Drive, Norfolk, VA (map) through January 28th. Proceeds are being donated to ACCESS AIDS and the CORE Theatre Ensemble.
UPDATE: The work Equus has sold and is no longer on view at the exhibition. A print is sitll available online, however.