Whitehot Magazine

February 2009. Ericailcane @ Carmichael Gallery

Ericailcane, K.O., Ink on Paper, Diptych, Each section individually framed,
11x14in framed (28x35.5cm)/10.25x7in unframed (26x17.5cm), courtesy Carmichael Gallery


Ericailcane: Man is the Bastard
January 10-28, 2009
Carmichael Gallery, Los Angeles

Working as an art critic is, for your humble essayist at least, primarily about finding entry points. I do not view my role as punitive or self-aggrandizing. While I certainly believe in the legitimacy of making value judgments as to the success of given works of art, what really interests me is not having the final say. People will think what they think, they will like what they like. They will appreciate, dismiss, obsess, emulate, buy, sell, and get their hackles up with or without me. No, I think the true value of the kind of criticism I practice is parting the curtains for the curious. Food for thought, ways in, places to start, things to keep in mind, reasons to go to galleries instead of malls, proof that art is worth their attention—and that they are smart enough to get it with or without an art degree. But every so often, an artist comes along whose work is so self-evidently just plain good that any insight I could offer would be gilding the lily; so accessible, generous, and articulate that frankly I don’t have anything to add.  

Italian graffiti artist Ericailcane (aka Eric the Dog) has produced a series of drawings that both inspire and defy analysis. With the dark, not-really-for-children fabulism of Wind in the Willows and the confident, endearing draftsmanship of Gorey, a rogue’s gallery of human-animal hybrids wreak havoc on the trappings of human civilization with a sanguine viciousness our species richly deserves. Like Babar in a ‘roid rage, elephants use cars as roller skates, kangaroos box with skyscrapers, brown bears upend airport runways—with the same sadistic innocence with which children break toys and adults break the planet. The sweetness of his style is at odds with his cynicism, and we are both entertained by and implicated in the untenable situation expressed in his metaphors.

Past that set-up I am unwilling to go any further in deconstructing the work, for two reasons. Well, two parts of the same reason. Even more than usual, much of the joy of this work lies in the discovery of its hidden aspects, and in the infusion of one’s own referential memories into the narrative. The artist leaves room for you in the work, and I don’t want to supplant or derail your story with mine, it’d be like spoiling the end of a movie. And anyway if I did, I’d be running the risk of sharing too much of myself, too much that is only interesting to me, and my therapist. Anyway, like I said, you don’t need me this time, just walk through the door on your own, you’ll be glad you did.

Shana Nys Dambrot

Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Downtown LA. She is the Arts Editor for the LA Weekly, and a contributor to Flaunt, Art and Cake, Artillery, and Palm Springs Life.

She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes essays for books and catalogs, curates and juries a few exhibitions each year, is a dedicated Instagram photographer and author of experimental short fiction, and speaks at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. She is a member of ArtTable and the LA Press Club, and sits on the Boards of Art Share-LA and the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, the Advisory Council of Building Bridges Art Exchange, and the Brain Trust of Some Serious Business.


Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff


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