Susan Te Kahurangi King
The Gradual and Inevitable Dissolution of Mickey Mouse
June 27–August 9, 2024

MARCH is pleased to announce The Gradual and Inevitable Dissolution of Mickey Mouse, presenting works dated from 1961 – 2019 installed in chronological order, a testament to the artist’s devotion to the subject and indicative of her larger artistic trajectory. 

Sometime in 1955, Doug King presented his young daughter with a copy of Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge, capturing the moment in several photographs that depict the soon-to-be artist perusing the comic or grinning with imaginative and inquisitive satisfaction. Before long, King began making drawings of her own, incorporating those characters into a fledgling universe, filtered through her own desires and brimming with unflinching curiosity... read more

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Photo of Susan Te Kahurangi King by Doug King. Courtesy of The Petita Cole Collection.

King remained an artist as she grew up, her images giving us keys into nonverbal expression, connecting us to her in the present through forms, colors, and shapes from the imagination or recognizable in pop culture. It is up to us as the audience to learn to recognize where artistic expression lies so we can continue to open the canon, our eyes, and expand our expectation of what moves us in visual art and where to find it.

–Amanda Millet-Sorsa, The Brooklyn Rail

Susan Te Kahurangi King, Untitled, c. 1980s, marker on paper, 12 x 18 inches.

The wonder of King’s weirdness isn’t in the activation of some serious politic. It’s in the splendour of her imaginative power and creative capability—a cold-water swim that leaves me feeling immersed in a world of odd possibility, refreshed through exposure to an expansive way of thinking, making, seeing, drawing.

 

–Lachlan Taylor, ARTnews Aotearoa

Susan Te Kahurangi King, 2024.

Press Release

Susan Te Kahurangi King
The Gradual and Inevitable Dissolution of Mickey Mouse

June 27–August 9, 2024

 

All four children contracted whooping cough and were treated by a doctor. Susan panicked when seized by coughing spasms … From then on she spoke less and seemed to have lost confidence in herself. Even though she spoke very little she would sing a large repertoire of songs in perfect tune, and sounding all the words. She still retained her usual happy demeanor.

At this time she was introduced to Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse in the Walt Disney comics, and from then on she would spend a lot of time looking at comics and drawing the Disney characters. She is left-handed.

– CASE HISTORY OF SUSAN KING (PERIOD 4) by Doug & Dawn King, c. 1967 

Sometime in 1955, Doug King presented his young daughter with a copy of Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge, capturing the moment in several photographs that depict the soon-to-be artist perusing the comic or grinning with imaginative and inquisitive satisfaction. Before long, King began making drawings of her own, incorporating those characters into a fledgling universe, filtered through her own desires and brimming with unflinching curiosity. 

From the start, King’s parents and grandmother were unusually attentive to Susan’s needs, and kept note of events and observations relevant to her life. The detail of these notes might feel burdensome or banal to the larger world, if it were not for the realities of the artist’s life and the undisputable brilliance of her decades-long personal drawing practice. King’s parents note: “It was reported by a schoolteacher that on one occasion she wandered into a different class when they were being given a difficult puzzle to piece together. While these older children were wondering how to go about it, Susan pushed her way forward, grabbed hold of the puzzle and pieced it together without hesitation. At that time her teacher reported that Susan displayed remarkable mental activity in (the) creation of complicated figures in drawing on paper, and that she was able to concentrate on drawing or on some other interest for hours at a time, whereas other children could not concentrate on one pursuit for very long before their attention would wander.” What feels like a parent and teacher’s proud observation is no more than an early indication of what differentiates King from a large portion of our collective modern society: patience aligned with a spirit of inquiry.

It is unknown when Mickey Mouse first appeared in King’s drawings, as they are not all dated, and neither can we presume they were all kept. However, the earliest dated drawings which include Mickey, are from 1961. He was not the first character to appear in her drawings, nor the most frequent but seems to be the only Disney character to be found in her works since 2008, following her hiatus which lasted around fifteen years. Over the years, King has drawn the iconic mouse in seemingly infinite variations: dissected, pulled apart, contorted, miniaturized or flattened onto blank spaces and found pages but also inserted into alien, jeweled planes. Nowadays, Mickey makes fewer appearances, periodically returning as a shadow of himself, grouped circles and cylinders joined among abstracted and geometric forms. It is perhaps the graphic simplicity of Mickey’s face that continues to engage King as it has other artists including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Joyce Pensato, Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, and countless others.

The Gradual and Inevitable Dissolution of Mickey Mouse presents works dated from 1961 – 2019 installed in chronological order, a testament to the artist’s devotion to the subject and indicative of her larger artistic trajectory. The drawings span from King’s early childhood to present day, gradual in their decades-long timeframe; inevitable because of the one-way direction of her practice, tending toward abstraction but rooted in both memory and formal study.

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