In his practice, Cylkowski creates works that convey the intensity of the urban environment and feelings of fluidity and movement. His paintings bear traces of the years the artist spent in the b-boy and graffiti subcultures of Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Through a process of layering elements—known as “piecing” among graffiti artists—he fills surfaces with layers of biomorphic circles, dazzling stripes of pearlescent automotive paint, and abstract expressionist-influenced paint whorls. The combined effect is surfaces that appear to recede and advance, that change color, or that otherwise toy with the certainty of our perceptions.
In this latest series of works, the artist induces moments when our instantaneous, unconscious perceptions differ from our reflective, conscious perceptions. These paintings serve as object lessons that there’s always more to reality than what’s immediately apparent on the surface—a theme which holds deep personal significance to the artist. Although his ancestral heritage is Korean, he was adopted at birth by a Polish-American family who raised him first in Chicago, then in Indianapolis. Growing up as the only Asian American person in his community, he was often perceived through the lens of a cultural background he had never experienced, until people actually got to know him. By recreating this experience, his body of work serves as a placeholder for his own living body.
The show’s title, The Manipulation of Authenticity, describes how, in the artist’s process, spontaneous and expressive marks created through improvised pours of paint are partially covered by slick, glittery automotive paint. The artist conceives of the graphic elements of his work as analogous to various aspects of the ego, among them self-consciousness, self-doubt, superficiality and “coolness.” These fragments, while connected, exist in tension with one another as they are alternatingly revealed and concealed. This uneasy negotiation causes the new and unexpected to arise within the pictorial surface and in the formation of identity.