Sunday, February 8, 2009

Humour is the new black

Recently sat in on artist talk with Jon Pylypchuk for my majors class. Everyone was making a huge deal about him coming to do a talk because he's "one of the most - if not the most - successful U of M Fine Arts graduate". He now works out of L.A. I had only seen his work on posters around campus but was automatically intrigued by the sculptures made out of scraps of wood, material, and found objects. I completely agreed with one prof who said his work could belong in juxtapoz. It gave off a a hip grungy vibe which is very prominent in the magazine.
When he sat in front of the projector at the art barn i thought right away that it wasn't going to be a long talk. He didn't seem like a talker. At first glance he looked like Rivers Cuomo (lead singer of Weezer). He was shy and nerdy looking with thick rimmed black glasses. The talk started with slides of his favourite bands. He had a very quiet almost nervous voice as he explained that he and his wife decided that going through his entire music collection since art school would be a good way to describe how he has developed as an artist. It seemed ridiculous and irrelevant at the time.
He showed slides of his older paintings and explained how galleries said they sucked so he started to make work that would sell. As soon as he sold his first piece he was shocked and just started producing what people would buy. He was modest and straightforward but you could tell there was more to his agenda than just creating what people want.
He moved on from paintings to his recent sculptures. The materials used for his sculptures dictated how you felt about the characters. A mixture of rough edges from wood contrasted with the plushness of a stuffed animal. But what kept most on the edge of their seats was through his quiet mumbling the titles of his work were shocking. For instance "Don't fuck the sea too hard big boy". The most intense course I've taken so far has been sculpture. With a prof who was very set in his methods and ideas and who told me that titles were cop outs. But in Pylypchuk's case I think they made his work. He was masking the darker meanings in his work with humour. And it was working. After a long ramble of these titles I saw a student leave in disgust. I felt just the opposite. What he was doing was the essence of his work. It seemed personal and dark blanketed with comic relief. I think this is a common coping mechanism for a lot of people.
After a short half hour talk we had question period. Possibly the most revealing statement was "Really deep down people don't care so just do it for yourself". This slightly contradicted his earlier confession of just making what people would buy but I took what he said to heart. I think he has come a long way from just making what sells and his work is now a true expression of his character.

Don't fuck the sea too hard big boy

Your brother is adopted / and I slept with him / so / so

So then we will burn you when you are dead

Don't press too much luck

I miss you danger and all its elements

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