Oakland ceramic artist Kyle Lypka opens up about his day to day schedule, process and inspirations for the work in our One Year Anniversary group exhibition in this interview with Kellen Chasuk. Be sure to check out Kyle's work in person for the group exhibition currently on view 11-6pm until Friday, July 1st located at 1525 Webster St. in downtown Oakland.
Kyle Lypka - (B. 1987 Philadelphia, PA) Not formally trained in ceramics, Lypka has aimed to achieve strong technical abilities through an intense practice in his studio. With a dedication to experimentation and a propensity for trial and error style learning, he has been able to explore while staying within the boundaries of the ceramic material, and the dependable subject of the figure. His work attempts to exist inside paradoxical and in-between spaces, ironic and sincere, personal and general, literal object and symbolic illusion. Kyle has been living and working in Oakland, CA since 2011. Learn more about Kyle below.
Kellen Chasuk: Hi Kyle, can you start off by telling us a little about yourself- where you grew up, how you ended up in the Bay Area, and any other good stuff you think the people at home want to hear.
Kyle Lypka: I was born in Philly in 1987, and lived there until I was 9, then we moved over the bridge to the suburbs outside Camden, New Jersey. I lived in Jersey until around 2010-11 when I joined some friends for a cross country road trip with California as the destination. I figured the Bay would be a good place to come out, and maybe I would try to be an artist for real, Oakland fit the budget and I've been living here since.
So what does a day in the life of Kyle Lypka look like? Give us a typical run-down of your regular must-do’s.
I work close to full time delivering medical marijuana by motorcycle in SF, so i'm busy paying the bills with that at least three 10 hour days a week. On an off day I like to be in the studio at least 8 hours. Otherwise just lots of running around trying to do all the things a person needs to do, eat, clean, try and keep my life afloat.
Are there any artists that have caught your eye lately?
My boyfriend is a damn good painter and always inspiring me, his name is Tyler Cross, he has some paintings at et al. gallery this month. Another local artist i've been into is Kate Klingbeil, I like her paintings a lot. I saw a Paul Wackers show recently that was really good. Matt Wedel's ceramic sculptures are amazing. I got a Ron Nagel book a while back that stays impressing me. There's so many good artists, I feel like I find a new one everyday.
Who are these male figures you sculpt?
They're really not anyone in particular, sometimes I don't even think of them as male, but sometimes they're very male. I just like using the figure as a starting point, something to be grounded in, it's a reliable form for me.
Not having taken traditional steps towards a fine art education, what can you tell us about how you ended up making work so connected to material and technical knowledge?
I was lucky enough to be introduced to ceramics in high school, so I had a very basic, but important understanding of the material. Once I decided to work more seriously with clay I just sort of taught myself what I needed know in order to get the results I wanted. This involved a lot of failure, so it's been a frustrating and rewarding process that's ongoing. I've read books, used the internet a bunch, and of course asked for help. The ceramic material and process can be very engrossing, the amount of variation that can be had is huge. The different combinations of techniques, clay, glazes, firing temperatures etc will probably keep me busy for the rest of my life.
The kiln can be unpredictable, and despite your impressive glazes I imagine you have your fair share of “failed” experiments. How much does chance in process drive your ceramic works?
Like I mentioned above, failure is a huge part of the process, but through trial and error I often get new ideas, or get lucky, so chance and accidents are key. I like to keep a lot of "scrap" around, just little broken bits or sculptures that never quite made it, and I'll try out new glaze ideas on them and pop them in the kiln. Sometimes out of a whole kiln load i'll only get one thing that's any good, sometimes nothing, but I'm always running experiments.
The works included in the One Year Anniversary show are stripped of extraneous symbols and forms that shift the viewer’s attention to different aspects of your work. Where do the remaining gestures, symbols, and textures come from for “Dave” and “Honest Mechanics”?
In the past year or two I've been looking at a lot of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, the classic stuff. I was using these as a jumping off point, divorcing them from their original context, but without forgetting about it entirely, letting it inform me but in a personal way. The textures are used to abstract the figures, which helps them exist in the in-between spaces where I hope some beauty happens.
Are drawing or other expressions part of your making process?
Not really, I usually draw things out to make plans on how to build them. Sometimes I make pots for plants too, I've got a pretty sweet cactus collection going on.