There Will be Animals at Bambi–of course

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Alan Prazniak
Alan Prazniak, Protect the Moondog

A gallery that calls itself Bambi is bound to have a soft spot in its heart for a show about animals. And here it is at last: There Will be Animals.

Alan Prazniak, Women and Children First, Oil on Canvas
Alan Prazniak, Women and Children First, Oil on Canvas

Artists Tory Franklin, Alan Prazniak and K-Fai Steele were chosen by Gallerist Candace Karch from the 18 artists at the recent Bambi Biennial show (which Roberta and I juried). I mention our role in the interest of full disclosure (see Andrea’s post reviewing some of the artists in the Biennial). What these three artists have to show looks great–from Franklin’s manic printed cut-paper valances to Steele’s cat people/odalisques to Prazniak’s urgent, tilted perspectives.

Alan Prazniak
The Pleasant War, charcoal on paper

Prazniak’s paintings and large-scale drawing continue to leave me breathless and off-balance. Their energy mixed with tenderness and outrage in grisaille turbulent compositions scream out like Guernica via Jorg Immendorff. Even a drawing of men playing chess is frought with the insanity of international power plays and war.

Alan Prazniak
Alan Prazniak, Gli Animali Della Notte, Charcoal on Paper

Prazniak’s animals are a lot like his people and vice versa. We are all endangered on his planet, where lots of things are going wrong. And that sense of imminent disaster is hard to miss.

K-Fai Steele
K-Fai Steele, Disappointment Disguised as Enthusiasm

K-Fai Steele also gives us animal people, in her case, cats, as indolent odalisques and bathing beauty nudes rowing on a lily-covered pond or resting under the boughs of a tree. The watercolors (and ink?), have an illustrative edge which is emphasized by the titles that sound like they come straight out of Little Women.

The imagery mixes cheesy Boucher nudes with Japanese landscapes; but the flesh is pure white, flat, and insubstantial, and what you get is completely original and odd.

IMG_4903 K-Fai Steele
K-Fai Steele, Cousinly Murmurs

I had a conversation in front of Cousinly Murmurs with fiber artist Marie Elcin and her daughter Zilla (sp?). Zilla (I think she’s 11, but I could be wrong)–[added 4/9: correct spelling is Zillah and she’s only 8; see comments below]–was offended by the nudes, prepared to put little skirts on them. Although they didn’t offend me, they did make me squirm, especially after Zilla’s comment. Cousinly Murmurs reminds me of a litter of hairless kittens competing for their mothers teats.

All in all, though, the drawings are quite funny. They belie the nonsensical genre paintings that we have all grown to accept as part of our cultural heritage, with the cats looking just plain silly, exposed as the aimless shirkers that they are, with not enough work to do.

IMG_4907 installation shot
Franklin’s valances capping the windows and doors

The idle classes also inspire much of Franklin’s manic, layered print-making. She has decorated the windows at Bambi with valances of cut, printed paper (they are great!); I don’t know how many images she had on the walls–seemed like about 50! The work is quite French, evoking toile prints, Louis XIV style and Puss in Boots imagery.

Tory Franklin
This print is from a series of boat images.

Franklin’s work is likable with an edge that comes from its manic productivity. She too includes some animal-as-people imagery, and when the layers of imagery and patterns form a coherent whole, she’s at her best. Some of the images seemed more experimental, as if she is on a constant quest to find new combinations and new ways to make use of the patterns and imagery. I left the gallery with a couple of her prints on folded note paper. At $3 a piece, I’d have been foolish for not buying. I could say the same for her slightly more expensive prints, except I’m trying not to collect.

All the prices in this show are great. Look and buy.

By the way, Alan Prazniak has a solo show, Totemic Whammy, opening at FLUXspace April 12–pictures and a mural-size drawing. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Tags

alan prazniak, bambi, k-fai steele, tory franklin

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