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Bold Designs At Art LA Contemporary In Santa Monica

Anne Artley |
January 27, 2013 | 5:05 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Courtesy of Art Contemporary Los Angeles
Courtesy of Art Contemporary Los Angeles

A group of cigarette sculptures crowd around the entrance to the art gallery. They are over six feet tall. They have eyes, and a cigarette of their own hanging out of their gaping mouths.  Some carry a cardboard sign bearing irreverant messages such as, “Pressure your friends for sex,” and “It’s blackout time.”

The cigarettes are the work of artist Jon Pylypchuk, and they are part of an exhibit in Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ALAC), an international contemporary art fair in Santa Monica. The fair includes the work of 70 galleries, with lectures and performances from some of the artists. The fair is located in the Barker Hanger event space.

According to Richard Arregui, the co-director of the gallery, the cigarettes represent the artist’s alter ego, and their signs show “what he does not say as a person.”  Pylypchuk was also trying to give up smoking at the time. 

Personally, the idea of the cigarettes as an alter ego reverberated with me. They represent a manifestation of our vices, of our habits and thoughts that are considered ‘bad.’  At certain times of our lives, the things we do not like about ourselves seem trivial, at other times, our bad selves appear to loom over us, as tall as Pylypchuk’s tallest cigarette, blocking any way to progress.

What struck me as well was the artist’s choice to personify the cigarettes. Addiction can be like a dysfunctional relationship- unhealthy, but even more difficult to end cold turkey. I found it a striking aesthetic choice that the cigarettes were smoking cigarettes themselves, hinting at the many layers of the artist’s addiction and the way it is intertwined with his alter ego. 

Other exhibits included a set of furniture made out of trophies and a film screening of scenes from The Source Family, a documentary exploring a 1970s counterculture movement led by a polygamous spiritual leader. 

Josh Smith, an artist himself, flew in from Aspen, Colo. for the weekend just to see the show. He said he has been ‘pleasantly surprised’ with the showing this year.

Others, though, were not so impressed.

“It was more vibrant in past years,” said guest Ari Rubin. “This year it’s more down. Blame the depression. Everything is smaller-in terms of both size and ambition.”

The exhibits ranged from paintings to sculptures, from abstract art to a more classic style.

One exhibit, ‘Rats Get Fat,’ featured a sculpture of a mountain made up of North Face jackets. A fake human skull was perched on the peak, and on top of the skull, sat a plastic rat peeing into the eye cavity.

“I think it represents how we try to reach a goal but the person who’s already on top wants to keep you down,” said gallery assistant Joel Kyack. “And rats usually cause disease and mayhem.”

This exhibit did elicit disgust, which was probably the artist’s aim. Like the cigarettes, the rat was also personified, standing in a human-like position. 

While this exhibit lacked the stylistic presentation of the cigarettes, I found myself fascinated with the layers of meaning behind the simple objects. 

 Many other exhibits drew me in with their bold colors and designs. The show itself exuded a youthful vibe, drawing a sizeable crowd of twenty-something art enthusiasts.

The show, which is in its fourth year, tends to draw out a few celebrities.  Another gallery assistant checking wristbands at the door reported spotting actor Jason Biggs from American Pie and the lead singer from rock band Jane’s Addiction.

Reach Reporter Anne Artley here.



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