November 07, 1994 12:00 PM

by Heather Busch and Burton Silver

Talk about formative experience. In one week the artist was neutered, got caught swiping a turkey roast and singed his tail. Meet Bootsie, a Trans-Expressionist with an understandably aggressive painting style and one of the featured felines who puts paw to surface in this deft and witty spoof.

The stroke of genius on the part of Busch, a photographer, and Silver, an art critic, is their deadpan presentation. So convincing is the faked historical documentation (markings on Egyptian scrolls, a Victorian era poster), and so feasible the cats’ compositions, that more than one pet owner will inspect Fluffy’s litter-box scratchings for signs of talent.

Busch and Silver also parody contemporary art criticism. Tiger’s “crude and indifferent smears…suggest greed and destruction.” The cats cooperate beautifully, wearing appropriately earnest expressions as they demonstrate technique or pose by their creations.

There’s no doubt cat fanciers will delight in the photos. Whether or not the sight of Pinkie industriously arranging refrigerator magnets provokes helpless laughter is another matter. But for enthusiasts of genuine tomfoolery, this book is catnip. (Ten Speed, $14.95 paper, $18.95 cloth)

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