Los Angeles

Tom Knechtel

Pence Gallery

In the spirit of childhood curiosity and horror, Tom Knechtel has drawn and painted a world of animals, principally the bat. Early in life most children learn that bats are to be feared. The animals’ habits—sleeping upside down, seeing by sonic screeches—seem too complicated and surreal for barbaric city intelligence. Knechtel depicts the maligned creatures in various states of life and death, most of them fantasy dramas. In a series of six silverpoint portraits entitled “A Commedia Dell’Arte Troupe for Nora Klein,” 1988, Knechtel has drawn immaculate straightforward renderings of bats’ faces. He aligns each bat with one of the clown characters from this theatrical form: the old man, the liar, the stutterer. The 10-by-8-inch format furthers this character-portrait effect. These little ghouls’ faces are adorable and repulsive, as ornate and complex as Kabuki masks.

Knechtel often arranges

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