Jon Pylypchuk: American Moses

Jon Pylypchuk,Nino Mier Gallery
Jon Pylypchuk, Installation View, American Moses, Nino Mier Gallery, May 12 – June 16, 2018

LOS ANGELES—American Moses, an exhibition of new works by Jon Pylypchuk, opening on May 12th and on view through June 16th at Nino Mier Gallery. This is the artist’s first exhibition at the gallery. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, May 12th from 6-8pm.

Jon Pylypchuk is a true multidisciplinary artist: his practice occupies space in all dimensions, without limits on materials, processes and medium. He continues to explore new initiatives in his work for American Moses, delving into cast bronze and aluminum, elevating beloved and scarred found objects and foam creature faces to raucously invade the historic realm of sublime and eternal sculpture. One carbuncled face with light bulbs for eyes, Hey baby, I just had sex with the moon – and I’m pretty sure I liked it, leads a faction of flattened monochrome-creatures who squeeze into traditional picture frames. His titles are brilliant jokes, moving poems, snippets of theatre – or as the artist describes, the ‘jam’ that holds together the sustenance of his work. Strangely, a sticky jam sandwich seems to cheekily explain his work: oozing with sickly-sweet blobs, simple, crude and narrowly satisfying – leaving you hungry for more.

Anthropomorphism that has inundated Jon Pylypchuk’s oeuvre gives life, sex, humor, madness and heart to the detritus of Los Angeles and transforms scraps we humans leave behind into weird and friendly creatures. In his orange and black painted sculpture, If George Burns is Dead I Want to be Dead Too, a cartoonish spectacle wearing emoji appears out of a minimalist arrangement of worn tires cast in bronze. Pylypchuk’s gooey faces chronicle familiar, human matters: a tongue-in-cheek questioning of social structures like religion and celebrity, the absurdity of sex and violence, anxieties concerning the fragility of their corroded bodies and a sense of tender benevolence set against an incomprehensible, infinite and brutal cosmos.

Originally born in Canada (1972), Pylypchuk has lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1998. He studied at the University of Manitoba where he co-founded the artist collective Royal Art Lodge in 1996 alongside Michael Dumontier, Marcel Dzama, Neil Farber, Drue Langlois and Adrian Williams. The group of Canadian artists was bound by their crude aesthetic, outsider status and interest in breaking down the established rules of artistic production. Considered a torchbearer of the Los Angeles art scene and ‘an artist’s artist’ by his compatriots, he has long since hoarded the attention of local enthusiasts before breaking out on the international scene.

Jon Pylypchuk’s works are in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Saatchi Collection, London; the Museum of Old and New Art, Berriedale; the Whitney Museum, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit and the Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo.

Hey baby, I just had sex with the moon — and I’m pretty sure I liked it.

As humans, we have a bittersweet arrangement with time and gravity. We trade youthful confusion and vigor for wisdom and what culture often considers unflattering bodily wear and tear.  All caused by the journey through time. Lines on our faces grow into folds like a developing brain. The grooves that record a life.

The melting faces of Pylypchuk’s wall works have the allure of an aging Charles Bronson. They exude an imperfect but welcoming beauty that says “yeah I might not be so beautiful on the outside now but you love it, and I love it that you love it and I love it that you love it that I love it!”

His tire works are like unabashedly wearing a speedo on a beach and allowing the sun to gain access to parts usually off-limits.  They beckon the viewer to “Come on in! The water will remind you that you are alive. The sun in its glory will swallow you up.” Well-worn tires cast in bronze are painted with vibrant colors that glorify their time spent on the road.  The scrapes and divots are relics of their own unique journeys — like favorite well-worn LPs.

Both works (which are cast in bronze or aluminum) cast-off the more common perceptions of their originals and speak the truth that being a bit worn and imperfect can be a very happy and beautiful place. They remind us that it is the journey through time and the spirit of age that transform what might otherwise be a mundane life into an epic heroic story.

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