Jackalopes, per the Penguin Dictionary of American Folklore, are mythical critters whose jackrabbit bodies have “antlers or … horns” and are “often given substance … by inspired taxidermists.” In the show “Anamalis,” Jayson Niles, who assists sculptor Andrew Crawford, combines taxidermic fabulism with a whimsical approach to materials one might expect from Crawford himself, the Salvador Dalí of tools.
The assemblages in Niles’s exhibition at the Swan Coach House Gallery (January 9–February 21) show his progression through an organicism recalling painter Richard Powers in a testicular mood to a gallimaufry menagerie. Niles’s portmanteau appellations—cowbit, woolbit—suggest more domesticated environs than the ones jackalopes typically “inhabit,” but his best efforts here have the kineticism implicit in jackrabbit-antelope hybrids. The bucking Fox Anamalis and rearing Lion Anamalis (standing nearly 7 feet tall) share the embodied energies of real beasts frozen mid-escape or pre-attack.
Niles seems as interested in collisions of tones/textures as he is in chimera. Cowbit Anamalis draws viewers close with its toucanlike “beak” of translucent resin but seems demonic in close-up, thanks to its eyelessness, looming wings, and shadowy pelt. Resin sometimes plays poorly with other mediums, though, as in Dwarf Cowbit II, whose armatures are distractingly visible. “Anamalis,” overall, bags mixed results.