Daily Art Moment: Jess Perlitz

Image description: Burned Beast, Jess Perlitz, burned basswood, 48 x 30 x 54 inches. A sculpture of a four-legged, horse-like creature depicted standing with one front leg slightly raised, its head tilted to the left. The beast has a long neck, small upright ears, large deep-set eyes that appear almost closed, a short snout with a broad mouth. The creature’s legs appear to be jointed at the shoulder, and end in thick hooves. The animal is dark charcoal in color and the surface shows the uneven marks of carving. It stands directly on the floor next to a white wall that has dark smudges that roughly correlate to the beast’s silhouette.

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

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