This story is only one of Aesop’s many fables featuring wily foxes. One such beast gives a shallow bowl of soup to a long-beaked dinner guest whom he knows will be unable to eat it; another convinces a goat to join him in a well, only to use the other’s back as a stepping stone out of the trap. Almost all of the fox fables advise caution to the vulnerable, promise bad karma for the deceitful, or highlight the far-reaching harm of selfishness, giving rise to a tradition of similar parables that has literally spanned millennia. In her recent article “Fox News” for The New Yorker, Joan Acocella explores the history of this kind of story, writing, “Such tales are no doubt as old as animal paintings on cave walls.”
New animal paintings on gallery walls comprise KLONE’s New York solo debut at Garis & Hahn. The visual story told in “Topography of a Daydream” owes much to its Reynard literary predecessors. The two-story exhibition encompasses a range of media, from drawing, to sculpture, to video, to ready-made photography. KLONE’s works on paper—made with inks of different hues and saturations, sometimes resembling watercolors—feature a set of animal characters that have traveled with him through his career, and look like they could be illustrations in a one-of-a-kind volume of fables. But diverging from Aesop’s cautionary morals, KLONE’s message is optimistic and fresh. The first piece that the viewer sees upon entering the show, Already Victorious (2015), shows a crow sitting on a fox’s head; in Grow (Rise) (2015), the fox holds the crow supportively in his paw as the two howl together.
“The characters appearing through my work are commonly understood as lone travelers,” KLONE has said. “They stand on folklore’s borders—passing on the thin line between the widely acceptable and the commonly forbidden.” This narrative hits home for the Tel Aviv-based artist, who emigrated from Soviet Ukraine to Israel as a child. As a teenager trying to claim space in a still-alien country, he began tagging and making graffiti in the ’90s. Two decades later, he infuses his characters with the sense of belonging he once sought—in a particularly moving wall drawing, two girls, one of them disguised as a crow, share an embrace. The dreamy black-and-white mural that covers the north wall of the gallery is populated by people dressed as birds and foxes, their costumes transparent to reveal the individuals within. In this way, KLONE makes plain our age-old tradition of anthropomorphizing animals to teach our deepest human lessons.