Review: Part totem, part troll doll, Jon Pylypchuk's enchanted forest is joyfully silly

Jon Pylypchuk, "Lost in Your Eyes," installation view of mixed media sculptures (Nino Mier Gallery)

For Jon Pylypchuk, scraps of wood, expanding foam insulation, some quick spray paint and a handful of found objects have been constructive materials for making sculpture over the years. Five new works show him running at top form.

Of course, in Pylypchuk’s eccentric universe, top form is low down. The suite of DIY-style sculptures in “Lost in Your Eyes” at Nino Mier Gallery is no different. Conceptually, David Smith’s tony Tanktotem sculptures from Abstract Expressionism’s glory days meet tattered troll dolls; their hybrid parentage is a bracing amalgam. Joyfully silly, the anthropomorphic figures are also unexpectedly poignant.

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Each is made from a vertical bundle of scrap wood, the shortest nearly seven feet tall, and the largest towers overhead at 12 feet. Sprayed with foam and painted white, the bubbly, scabbed surface looks like some itchy skin disease has overtaken them.

Jon Pylypchuk, "Business in the front, party in the back, despair in the middle," 2018, mixed media (Nino Mier Gallery)

Two rubber tires bolted onto either side of the bundle make for an oversized pair of big, banjo eyes; skinny bicycle tires stretched horizontally beneath them seem to make the sculptures grin. If these creatures have ancestors, they’re perhaps the hostile fighting trees in “The Wizard of Oz” — fantastic trees of arcane knowledge whose role was to keep intruders out of the enchanted forest.

A couple of sticks protrude as outstretched arms, a pair of work gloves speared on each. Rather than a proffered embrace, however, these hands push back. The gloves’ middle fingers stand erect, impaled on the sticks, jauntily flipping the bird at approaching admirers.

“Lost in Your Eyes” is collectively titled after a 1989 Debbie Gibson make-out record. It’s an exhibition as lovestruck symphony, cuddly characters deftly destabilized by that sassy finger-detail, at once open-hearted and self-protective. There’s no coherent reason in the world why gussied-up piles of trash should be moving, but — weirdly — they are.

Jon Pylypchuk, "I command all the forces of nature!," 2018, mixed media (Nino Mier Gallery)

Nino Mier Gallery, 1107 Greenacre Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 498-5957, through Sept. 15. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.miergallery.com

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