How does one contend with loss? When a close friend or relative passes on, the sensation of loss seems to pervade objects, moments in time, spaces, bound up in memory and personal reflection. This sense seems to flow from the recent work of Los Angeles-based artist Jon Pylypchuk, who presents What have we missed, a solo exhibition of new sculptures at Petzel Gallery’s Uptown New York space this month.
Presenting a grouping of bronze ‘ghost’ sculptures (all 2020 & 2021), What have we missed documents a period of intense grief and disbelief for the artist and the world. In many ways, the show’s title functions as both a question and a statement, one to be understood as uniquely personal and also collective in the current moment. “I’m more alive steeping in some form of grief or some form of intense experience,” the artist says. “Grief is the motivator, grief is the awareness of the self, and within that infrastructure of pain you can manufacture a new narrative.”
The works stem from the death of a close friend, leaving the artist casting about to create works in memoriam, and finding himself only able to create ghostly tributes, sculptures that create a sort of phantom stand-in, sculpted from pieces of clothing, fabric, underwear, and other found materials, frozen in time yet completely emotive. They morph in various states of stilted attempts to cry out, a caring embrace, or sheer shock. Not unlike the many cycles of grief itself. “The ghosts are interconnected by something as simple as the chemicals they’re made of,” the artist says. “We accumulate these chemicals throughout our life, what I’m trying to do in a short amount of time is put a life on each one of them. The patina that happens over time for a human, whether it’s aging or whether it’s accumulation of knowledge is a similar thing I’m just trying to shorten the amount of time that it takes to do that.”
The dynamic, moaning faces and tragic poses seem to be pulled direct from the remainders of a life, these bits of fabric and other materials imbued with an enduring memory animated well beyond the bodies that once wore them. Rather, they become animations of surging emotion and recollection, quite literally animating their bodies. Breathing a real sense of life into these inanimate objects, Pylypchuk seems to create something akin to the true notion of a ghost, the spectre of an absence, made manifest.
The show closes August 6th.
– D. Creahan
Jon Pylypchuk at Petzel [Exhibition Site]