If you've kept your eyes peeled around San Francisco lately, you may have noticed a new herd of animals in our midst. Italian artist Erica il Cane draws furry creatures and currently has a show of sculptures and works on paper at Fifty24SF Gallery this month titled We Were Living in the Woods. He also painted a flurry of murals on the Upper Playground building next to the gallery, in Bolinas, and on a new wall on the old UCSF building at Laguna and Haight Streets. Word on the street is he paints fast.
Bears, possums, otters, rabbits -- name any animal, and this artist has likely painted it. It's unknown why he named himself Erica il Cane (Erica the dog), but an animalistic name seems fitting. His creatures are anthropomorphized like many of the animal subjects found in contemporary art, but his approach appears vintage and illustrative, and his narratives are always intentionally mysterious. The pictures have dark undertones. On the back wall of the gallery, he painted a rabbit slipping into a noose. But some humor seeps through in other works. As part of a limited print release, the artist drew a donkey wearing green shoes while giving the boot to a couple of mangy cats.
Drawing and painting are not the only mediums this artist gets into, however. He also produces dark stop motion films starring his animated drawings as well as 3D puppet versions of the characters he renders on paper.
Perhaps most exciting about his exhibition are the window displays where fall leaves have blown through the gallery's door to set the stage for the artist's sculptural animals. Their identities are vague, but one window display shows a well-dressed wolf poking another with a stick. Like his 2D work, Erica il Cane's sculptures and films depict ambiguous situations where a crisis seems to be lurking.
Like the characters in the beloved 1980s stop motion film based on the 1908 book The Wind in the Willows, Erica il Cane's animal imagery hits a nostalgic nerve. And the innocence in their expressions reminds viewers of all that was scary and confusing about being a child in a world made for adults. It takes a skillful hand to produce work that touches upon universal memories in the way that Erica il Cane's does. My only complaint about his visit to San Francisco is that I'd like to see his menagerie of characters peeking out from every single corner of the city.
We Were Living in the Woods is on view at Fifty24SF Gallery in San Francisco through December 18, 2010. For more information visit Fifty24sf.com.