‘I recommend going to see the White Walls show because I bet that up close, these things look like they are going to devour you, digest your spirit, and regurgitate it in the form of a thousand brightly colored pieces.’ – Dan Reading on AJ Fosik’s White Walls show.
AJ Fosik’s work is unmistakable. It is bright and fun and gloriously subversive. It is so fantastic on a purely aesthetic level that the deeper meanings involved are almost superfluous, and because of that his work is made all the more wonderful. Fosik is a wood carver. With a background in street art and signage, he produces mixed media sculptures within the “low brow” genre utilizing a mix of pop culture and fine art references. He creates figural, eclectic folk inspired 3-D sculptures in a painstaking manner. He’s formulated a complex process of design in which he carefully handcrafts hundreds of pieces of wood and then arranges them to build anthropomorphized creatures. Fosik explains that each individual piece undergoes “full woodshop gestation;” he builds a complete wooden skeleton from 2x4s and framing nails for each sculpture, then uses plywood and gold screws to form muscles and sinew, a layer of wooden flesh goes on top of that, a cover of luan chips and then it’s all topped off with claws, sharp teeth and eyes. It goes without saying that he’s a master of craft with an incredible work ethic. The man power that goes into each one of his fantastical beings is staggering, and while he went through a period of relying on his computer to build them he’s since abandoned modern technology and gone back to his roots. There’s a natural, primitive element to it all — from the construction to the commentary — in fact in his most recent solo exhibit Time Kills All Gods he used 100% locally sourced materials and parts manufactured in the US.
As the Jonathan LeVine Gallery explains, Fosik’s work is “evocative of American Folk Art and inspired by subversive cultural influences that shift complacency, Fosik’s work suspends comfort with the appeal of familiar symbols and images. In this dynamic tension, the art and viewer come together in an expanded definition of culture and assumption.” His early work was a search for American identity — he explored the ways that Americans relate to one another through the collection of ideas that constitute culture. Drawing heavily on Americana and folk art themes, he used cryptic symbols to create blatant paradoxes in his 2007 debut solo exhibit At the Edge of Town. The exhibit featured both free standing sculpture and mounted 3-D work, with the latter a nod to the kitsch of taxidermy. There is humor in his work — like the lady bear wearing her jumper, wielding her axe. Or the sickly, skeletal man vomits a large sturdy tree.
In 2011 his exhibit Time Kills All Gods showed his thematic evolution from American identity to a focus on the random and chaotic human experience. Entropy seemed to plague him as he investigated existential ideas and presented a subversive, anti-religious commentary. He built a series of nameless, exaggerated fictional gods with no specific realms or powers to suggest the man-made truth of religion and to celebrate existence independent of a higher power. He claimed to be aiming to “turn the supernatural on its head” with his totems by starting a religious dialogue that pointedly leaves out religion. Lainya Magana of Hi-Fructose Magazine explains, “Fosik points to the power and scope of man’s innate creativity devoid of divine inspiration.” The word fetish is brought up more than once in discussion of his treatment of the unknown, and it becomes clear that he’s emphasizing, in an abundantly positive way, how all we really have in life is each other. A celebration of the brotherhood of man if you will? It is not everyday that you find art as visually joyful and yet as strikingly cerebral as that of AJ Fosik and on top of all of the truly amazing wood work he has created throughout his career, one of the high points in our opinion is the series of vintage beer sweaters he completed a few years back. If anyone knows where to find the yellow Coors one, please email us!
The opening quote about soul digestion refers to the creatures below, our personal favorite exhibit of Fosik’s called There’s Aliens in Our Midst.