"Japanese Wolf"

When girl meets animal kingdom
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P>REVIEW When was the last time you chatted on your cell in a crowd of yaks? Or honored the dewy lavender morning with a steaming cup of green tea and a goat friend? Or crouched with a pack of sunset wolves howling on your back?

No offense, but I bet your social circle isn't this diverse. For the girl-woman at the center of Yumiko Kayukawa's paintings, though, communing with nonhuman creatures is typical. Born in the small town of Naie in Hokkaido, Japan, Kayukawa found her muses amid the land's sweeping beauty and native fauna. Her connection with those elements runs throughout her body of work: the giant tiger perched atop the earth, enjoying the company of three lounging pop-tart girls in Sekai De Ichiban Neko (The World's Biggest Cat); the wide-eyed tarsiers helping to hang wishes for stars on bamboo in Tanabata (Star Festival); and the contented whales cuddling a pink scuba-suited underwater heroine in Oshizukani (Quiet Please). Kayukawa makes such intimate relationships with the wild animal kingdom look effortless.

And seductive. Kayukawa's humans are young and pouty-lipped, with bright eyes, suggestively bent backs, and painted nails that are never chipped — even when keeping a frothing bear at bay. Saturated hues and pastels — sea green, cantaloupe, camellia, pale yellow — heighten this playfulness, as do the requisite kanji, floating in space like manga dialogue and titling each curious scene. Kayukawa's eroticized pop vision is imbued with a fearless openness, evident in her decisive lines but even more so in the intention embedded in these paintings. When was the last time you had a tiger by the tail, much like her protagonists, and got away with it?

JAPANESE WOLF Through Sept. 6. Tues.–Sat., noon–7 p.m. Shooting Gallery, 839 Larkin, SF. (415) 931-8035, www.shootinggallerysf.com

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