Psychologists Angelina Hawley-Dolan and Ellen Winner of Boston College have constructed a test which can distinguish abstract expressionists from common animals up to 80% of the time. 72 college students were shown paintings created by abstract expressionists, elephants, children*, monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas, and were asked to determine which was which. The students were able to tell the difference 60 to 80 percent of the time, depending on how the paintings were labeled.
*technically human, I suppose
The students often indicated they could perceive artistic intent behind the works created by human artists, allowing them to distinguish them from animals. Other tip-offs: abstract expressionists are much less likely to ride tricycles, wash cats or fling feces.
The study, however, is being met with some skepticism. Jimmy, a chimpanzee artist currently tenured at the Rio Zoo, was asked to comment. He responded by making a pppprrrpt sound and handing the interviewer a piece of straw, a gesture we’re interpreting as a well thought out commentary on sample size, confirmation bias and the inability of college students to tell the difference between proper art and a piece of used toilet paper.
Human artist Cy Twombly was unavailable for comment, presumably because he was busy washing his cat.