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In the Company of Cats and Dogs

The Blanton has created a fun exhibition that reveals our evolving relationship to these fur babies

Reviewed by Caitlin Greenwood, Fri., Aug. 22, 2014

<i>Cat Prowling Around a Staked Tomato Plant</i> (1931) by Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei)
Cat Prowling Around a Staked Tomato Plant (1931) by Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei)
Courtesy of The Blanton Museum of Art

Blanton Museum of Art, 200 E. MLK, 512/471-7324
www.blantonmuseum.org
Through Sept. 21

We, as a general rule of (opposable) thumb, love animals. We study them, care for them, anthropomorphize them, and deify them. Animals are in many ways the gatekeepers for us to fantasize about what we could have been, had the DNA dice rolled in a different direction. And on a less academic level, boy, are they also adorable. So it's no surprise that artists throughout history have sat down their domesticated furry friends for a portrait session.

For the Blanton's "In the Company of Cats and Dogs," depictions of felines and canines from around the world and across the ages are brought together to create a larger portrait of the human relationship to pets. The exhibition's strength is the sheer scope of the work: from Goya to Picasso, from the Renaissance to the present day. Sculptures of the ancient Egyptian gods Bast, also known as Bastet, and Anubis strike an ominous chord for the show, which is otherwise lighthearted. In Cat Prowling Around a Staked Tomato Plant, Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei)'s subject curiously slinks around a garden scene while Dürer's mutts wait anxiously underfoot in St. Eustace for the hunt to begin again.

"In the Company of Cats and Dogs" offers glimpses into the past utilitarian uses for these animals while also showcasing pieces that depict the reverence and love we feel for our fur babies. The Blanton has even extended the latter sentiment by putting the call out for images of pets, which can be submitted via social media or email and are then folded into the exhibition and put on display. Sure, "In the Company of Cats and Dogs" is zoological and historical but, when it comes down to it, it's a fun exhibition that gives us an opportunity to see and experience the world through thoroughly different eyes.

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