Sculp­tures blur lines of hu­man­ity

Pic­cinini’s odd crea­tures dis­com­fort at Hos­felt Gallery

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - DATEBOOK - By Charles Des­marais

We know at heart that we are an­i­mals, but we con­ceal our beast­li­ness from oth­ers, and even from our­selves. We mask our im­pulses, rit­u­al­ize our bod­ily func­tions, tame our hairi­ness.

The most dis­turb­ing as­pect of Pa­tri­cia Pic­cinini’s hor­rid sculp­tures of an­i­mal­ized hu­mans — and they are de­cid­edly that, and not the other way around — is not that they are cross-bred. We can imag­ine, for what­ever warped or wicked rea­son, de­sign­ing a crea­ture to our cul­ture’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions. What we could not abide would be the loss of our own prim shells of seem­li­ness.

“In­ter-nat­u­ral,” the Aus­tralian artist’s ex­hi­bi­tion at Hos­felt Gallery through Jan. 26, con­cen­trates on the most an­i­mal­is­tic of her work. The ma­chine hy­brids we saw in her last show at the gallery were eas­ier to pull off, for the sim­ple rea­son that in­dus­trial de­sign­ers have been tak­ing cues from na­ture at least since they started adding tail fins to au­to­mo­biles.

In the cur­rent out­ing, the artist whiffs as of­ten as she con­nects. The piece that greets view­ers as they en­ter the gallery, “The Builder” (2018), imag­ines a small child’s body with beaver-like teeth and tail. One can pic­ture the work as an an­i­ma­tion model for the next Pixar pro­duc­tion: just so cheeky as to at­tract at­ten­tion, mawk­ish enough to sell lots of tick­ets.

Not that elid­ing the sup­posed bound­aries be­tween fine art, film and the amuse­ment park is nec­es­sar­ily a zero-sum com­pe­ti­tion. One can find many cases where one field has fed the growth of oth­ers. It works best, though, when nour­ish­ment is the point.

“The Field” fills the gallery’s main room with 2,000 white, crab-like forms on white stems. It’s In­sta­grammably im­pres­sive, at first. A sec­ond look, how­ever, re­veals the flower heads to be more plas-

Peter Hen­nessey

Pa­tri­cia Pic­cinini’s “The Loafers” (2018)

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