Wolfbat Wows in San Fransisco’s FIFTY24SF

WolfBat Show

Wolfbat at Upper Playground Gallery. Photo: Chuck Frank

Wolfbat is Dennis McNett, born in 1972 and living in New York since 2001. He carves mad, angry, surly block prints, and has for over 18 years. He is currently showing a selection of his works at FIFTY24SF, Upper Playground’s gallery.

In McNett’s show at FIFTY24SF, one wall is dedicated to a couple of skateboard series that he may have done for AntiHero, where he has done other boards. There are angry ants, growling wolves, vexed bats and hostile skulls among many other series of four skate deck designs, all printed in limited edition prints of 48. The opposing wall is covered in random posters, reminding viewers of a teenage boy’s room, oozing with youthful anger and testosterone. Along the back of the gallery there’s a triptych of paper maché masks that bring McNett’s creatures to life, and across the back wall is a giant printed wall hanging – the masterpiece of the show. Created by combining printed panels of Wolfbat creatures, the giant flag drapes the rear wall in exquisite bold black and white printed lines that when unraveled reveal a world of snarling animals at battle. The center panel has a snake and a jungle cat in a deadly embrace.

While wood block printing has been around for a very long time, and saw a resurgence in popular American art in the sixties, as part of the political/protest art movement, Wolfbat really shows how this ancient technique can still be relevant in the age of digital giclées. It’s awesome that groups like Upper Playground and AntiHero have jumped on the Wolfbat bandwagon to help promote this physically direct and captivating technique. The only downside is that emotionally, with all the anger that these works evoke, the Wolfbat show feels a bit like it stays one note, but with a space this small, it may work to the show’s advantage. The slapdash hanging of the collection of posters is somewhat of a disservice, as most of the attention gets focused on the back wall drapery, the masks, and the skateboard decks. Better editing and curating of the mixed poster wall installation might have given it more presences in the show.

Since his work has already been featured in The New York Times, as well as Juxtapoz, Thrasher and Complex Magazines. It’s clear that McNett has already earned his chops – this isn’t a make or break it show, it’s just a great opportunity for the West Coasters to see what an awesome New York-based artist is doing. And with that in mind, it’s a must see show. The show runs through September 28th.

FIFTY24SF GALLERY: 218 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA

Written by West Coast Editor: Chuck Frank