Jonathan Pylypchuk: Friedrich Petzel Gallery

By Stillman, Nick | Artforum International, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Jonathan Pylypchuk: Friedrich Petzel Gallery


Stillman, Nick, Artforum International


Jonathan Pylypchuk's fourth solo exhibition at Friedrich Petzel Gallery was arguably his most far-reaching to date. Pylypchuk's previous gallery outings have concentrated on diminutive, puppetlike characters fabricated from old clothes, bits of wood, and other items ticketed for the junk pile. And while these remained prominent at Petzel, the Canadian artist and former Royal Art Lodge member here provided his creatures with a gallery-spanning habitat of rickety wood. Once free-floating entities, Pylypchuk's characters thereby became actors in a quasi-narrative diorama.

But despite its expansion in scale, Pylypchuk's shabby, scatological work remains intentionally scrappy; ultimately, the addition of an architectural element only added to this effect. Protruding nails pointed this way and that, and slats of splintered wood could have been hammered just as precisely blindfolded--Pylypchuk is doggedly antigrandiose, resolutely non-precious. Materials for the installation were scavenged in Detroit (although there's nothing particularly Detroit-specific about them), where a different version was originally installed in the Museum of Contemporary Art. They were a typically Pylypchukian haul of throwaways: asymmetrical and threadbare castoffs, mutilated shards of wood, Budweiser cans. The scene felt a little like the minimalist soundstage set of Lars von Trier's 2003 film Dogville, although the Danish director's allegory takes places in Colorado, whereas Pylypchuk's ramshackle housing stock and bawdy characters seem modeled on poverty-stricken towns in the rural American South. Shutters were fastened arbitrarily to structures that threatened to disintegrate with a gentle nudge.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Fantastic human-animal hybrids were prominent in Pylypchuk's cartoonish Hooverville--there were panda-people, elephant-people, and bird-people. …

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