Jess Perlitz’s Burned Beast is a mismatched creature, resembling an ill-fitted hobby horse with visible seams and dowels. The basswood has been hand-chiseled and sanded, and burnt in the final stage, at once creating a pragmatic and protective seal, while also signaling a kind of ritual act. The “shadow” is created by rubbing charcoal on the wall across from the sculpture. Given the title and burned nature of the sculpture, Burned Beast seems as if it should be a menacing or ominous presence, however, because of its hobbled legs and tilting head with a seemingly smiling expression, the sculpture is surprisingly charming. The ambiguous creature seems dog-like and its imperfect form becomes endearing. At this moment, as we enter a new year, Perlitz’s Burned Beast feels extremely timely, as if it has embodied our recent climate disasters and the pandemic, yet it remains inquisitive and standing.
—Grace Kook-Anderson, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art
Jess Perlitz (American, born 1978), Burned Beast, 2017. Burned basswood. Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; Sculpture Purchase Funds, 2019, 2021.46.1