On Autocannibalism & the Insistence of Nostalgia

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Jon Pylypchuk readies It's not you, it's me, I will always love you dear


Jon Pylypchuk and an assistant install his It's not you, it's me, I will always love you dear at the entrance of Barker Hangar.

In the final hours before the opening of the fourth annual Art Los Angeles Contemporary fair, Jon Pylypchuk is face to face with an enormous cigarette.

It’s one of eighteen he’s built in his Chinatown studio from common construction materials and hauled over to Barker Hangar for his sculptural installation titled It’s not you, it’s me, I will always love you dear, where the work will greet guests at the entrance of the fair later this afternoon.

In title, the work’s a wistful look into the past, but in reality it’s unsentimental. There’s a social statement here — the cigarettes crowd one another, toting slogan and koan-bearing cardboard signs in unknown if passionate protest — but like cigarette smoking itself, their rabble rousing is deeply shortsighted, perhaps myopic. The eyes affixed to the cigarettes are sliced in half and look oddly shut, and the totems themselves smoke their own miniature cigarettes. Like a sculpture of a hot dog oozing mustard all over itself outside a food stand, or a tooth brushing its own teeth to advertise a local dentist, we gawk and wonder — I know you’re trying to tell me something, but is it about you, or me? It’s a trenchant comment on the twin nature of protest and commerce.

This is the second year fairgoers have encountered original work at the hanger’s entrance. Last year, Judy Chicago opened the fair with a reimagining of her Disappearing Environments performance installation, where gorgeous dry ice ziggurats evaporated in front of our eyes. That work is all magic, a literal display of smoke and mirrors. Pylypchuk’s work is more grounded, using the same materials carpenters and contractors use to build the common single family home — the bases made from cement and plywood, the spray foam insulation similar to the stuff we use to line the insides of walls. These days, we know that wall stuffing contains asbestos, and we know that cigarettes are lethal, but both are imbued with the memories and sensations — the warmth of the home, the great conversations that only happen on smoke breaks — that we will, as Pylypchuk notes, always love.

Fairgoers can find more of Pylypchuk’s cigarettes in miniature at the booth of Miami’s Frederic Snitzer Gallery, where five cigarettes stand in a circle scratching their heads, some even flipping the bird at each other, and another life-sized stub across the aisle at the booth of Los Angeles’ International Art Objects Galleries. It’s not you, it’s me, I will always love you dear is an original work commissioned for Art Los Angeles Contemporary, and will remain up, come rain or shine, through Sunday night.

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