Monday, May 16, 2011

Cat Art Exhibit 'Apocalypse Meow' Excites Feline Desires

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 8:45 AM

click to enlarge Kittenzilla 2 - BUNNIE REIS, EZRA LI, AND GARRISON BUXTON
  • Bunnie Reis, Ezra Li, and Garrison Buxton
  • Kittenzilla 2
San Francisco's beloved Kittenzilla has returned. At least, it's back in gallery form. The massive mixed-media mural is the main attraction in catcentric group show, "Apocalypse Meow," which debuted at Space Gallery in the Tenderloin on Saturday night. It's an exhibition "examining the dominance of all things feline in contemporary culture," the gallery explained.

Bunnie Reis, Ezra Li, and Garrison Buxton created the original Kittenzilla, which was painted over an unused wall on Divisadero at Hayes, and its new counterpart, Kittenzilla 2. Both share the supersweet kitty eyes of a Lisa Frank drawing, with shocks of neon lasers shooting out of said peepers. This new piece, however, also includes a banner declaring, "We're Winning the Future!!!"

The exhibit also includes numerous other takes on everyone's (okay, some people's) favorite fuzzy house pet -- 58 pieces by 16 artists. One wall is occupied by a cluster of dark, rock 'n' roll, and horror themed gouache-on-paper pieces by Audrey Erickson. Her series of striking and bold pieces have even more punny titles including Vampurr Pussy, Bride of Furankenstein, and Meowl at the Moon. This wordplay theme pervades the exhibit and was further accentuated at the opening (thank you, organizers, for pumping Cat Power over the sound system).

click to enlarge Audrey Erickson shows the feline's dark side, albeit playfully.
  • Audrey Erickson shows the feline's dark side, albeit playfully.
Some artists stray a bit from the theme of house cats. There were a number of elegant tigers, including Yumiko Kayukawa's More Please, a sherbet-colored acrylic-and-ink piece depicting a pink-cheeked woman eating with chopsticks and holding a bowl close to her face, a ravenous, tongue-flashing tiger poking behind her. In Kelly Allen's All Stars Need to Shine, a poppy-oil painting on laser-cut wood, pieces of a tiger's face and paws are visible beneath rounded honeycomb and plantlike shapes.

click to enlarge The work of Yumiko Kayukawa.
  • The work of Yumiko Kayukawa.
Based on initial reaction, or possibly primal urge, it was hard not to swoon over the sweetest, most realistic, straightforward depictions of domestic cats: Ryan Jone's multiple oil paintings of kitties, innocent with paws together, squeezing their eyes closed, looking upward with big, plaintive eyes. This series, with colorful geometric shapes behind each cat, names every piece with a word that is probably the nom de cat (Hyphy, Fatty, Bogie, Le Tigre). I heard an collective "aww" when a group came upon these final show pieces during the opening.

The show is a mostly light-hearted take on the theme, as you might expect. But must art always maintain an underlying seriousness? I say no. "Apocalypse Meow" continues through June 4 at Space Gallery, 1141 Polk (at Sutter). The gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday, and the show is definitely worth a visit. In fact, for what it aims to be, it's damn near purrfect (emphasis, sadly, mine).

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section.

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Emily Savage

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