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Review: The Rise of the Machines and The Zwolle Paintings

Works by Patrick Lichty and Bob Tooke

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The Internet is a mystery. From humble origins as a government project in the 1960s, it evolved into a vast global compendium of information and misinformation. Now people use it to relate to the world through digital devices. A new media theorist and provocateur, Patrick Lichty explores this seductive, digitally mediated, alternate reality while revealing the secret inner meaning of the Internet by exposing its main beneficiary after its many decades of development: cats. Yes, as the single most clicked-on topic, cats rule the Internet.

  Nobody knows why. Even Lichty — whose resume includes collaborations with The Yes Men and other guerilla raids on the techno status quo — incorporates them into his creative flow, as we see in his oddly rendered drawings like Predator vs Predator, a view of a playful tabby chasing a Predator drone, or Random Internet Cat (pictured), a fluorescent ink feline staring raptly at us. Digital artists like Lichty often employ technological curiosities, and if these works radiate an odd, Etch A Sketch aura, it's probably because they were made with a Makelangelo 3, a cutting-edge marvel that uses advanced 3-D printer technology to facilitate drawings like something an obsessive-compulsive savant might have created. There also is a pixilated Siamese cat woven into a throw rug that he got Wal-Mart to make. What gives? Forget al-Qaida — with Lichty's help, the clandestine feline mind control conspiracy for total world domination is obviously on a roll.

  Folk artist Bob Tooke is a former resident of Germany now based in Zwolle, Louisiana, where he paints colorful canvases of blues legends, kitsch and burning cars. Portraits like Lightning Hopkins at the Golden Poodle Klub are evocative classics, but his burning car canvases are strange. Most are dedicated to German pop stars, except for a flaming vintage Mercedes-Benz captioned "Adolph." Tooke is an eloquent folk artist, but his burning cars suggest a weird new strain of German voodoo.

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