Three artists take on the Animal Kingdom and document wildlife with great creativity
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Aug. 10, 2012
'Tamed Territory'grayDUCK Gallery, 608-C Monroe, 826-5334
Through Aug. 20
Good things come in threes, they say, and that's especially true at grayDUCK Gallery, where the exhibitions tend to feature three artists. "Tamed Territory," the latest show in this right-off-South-First gallery, provides evidence of that (the goodness and the triplicity) with works by Calder Kamin, Casey Polacheck, and Areca Roe.
Kamin sculpts animals in ceramics, "some that resemble kitsch figurines and others rendered slightly more realistic." A pair of tigers, part-white, part-orange, prowling atop a pedestal. A brief suite of endangered species on one white shelf. A sweet array of bats – Austin's own Mexican free-tailed variety and the adorably kawaii flying fox among them – hanging on a wall. There's a pair of road-killed creatures, too, poignant testament to the sadder intersections of wilderness and civilization: an armadillo and a rabbit. (Poor dear dead and bloodied bunny, realistically rendered and already sold.)
Polacheck's paintings of animals-in-nature and animals-in-dioramas use oil on canvas to bring a sort of Twilight Zone slant to the depictions. Just what is it that those canines have discovered through digging, in The Coyote Diorama? The solo monkey snacking on the contents of a termite mound in The Chimpanzee Diorama looks as if it might beg your pardon and request some Grey Poupon. And that pair of carrion birds in The Vulture Diorama ... you know, they're somehow less threatening if you're reading this review in our printed edition.
Roe's photographs of animals, reproduced here as large archival pigment prints, are as lovely as some of what you might see in the pages of National Geographic, but these creatures aren't shot in the wild. Roe's done a tour of several national zoos and captured their caged and unnaturally accommodated denizens in that context. "Are we protectors, exploiters, or compatriots?" asks the accompanying grayDUCK literature. Whatever the answer, it's certain that we – at least, Roe and Polacheck and Kamin – are creative documentarians of animals. Which is what this exhibition is about, really. As Kamin's endangered-species group says via its arch title: Collect Them All Before They're Gone.