The word “crossed” can be interpreted several ways, especially in relation to AJ Fosik‘s Crossed Tiger Relief piece (2017). On the most obvious level, the word calls attention to the X-like shape the conjoined feline forms are depicted in. But, upon closer inspection, the human skeleton underneath the tiger’s shell becomes apparent, “crossing” perhaps signifying the hybrid nature of these beasts. Or beast, as the singular word “tiger” eludes. And this fantastical essence tends to be the heart of many of Fosik’s creations.
While a formally trained artist, Fosik is a self-taught woodworker, his medium of choice for over a decade. And through this material, he’s developed his own visual language, a form of allegorical art that is both equally beast fable and animal worship. Recalling the vibrant colors and creative concepts of Alebrije, the Mexican folk art sculptures, Fosik’s overall aesthetic seems more similar to Indian traditions, such as the theatrical costuming of Yakshagana or the religious attire of Theyyam.
Like all Fosik’s works in this style, Crossed Tiger Relief is composed strictly out of wood, found objects, paint, and nails. Through a complex process of arranging the individually cut wooden shapes, hundreds of them used just to form the striped fur facade, Fosik purposefully constructs every meticulous aspect. And instead of opting to create a freestanding sculpture, Fosik has made this as a wall-mounted work on a 48 x 47½ in. frame, the result reminding the viewer of some preserved ritual site.
Alongside a gruesomely prepared heart, sliced like a fine meat dinner, the tiger’s heads have been cleanly severed, human skulls resting nearby. Though one could assume the skulls and tiger came from separate creatures, Fosik reinforces their connection: one is adorned in a bestial cap, implying that the skull resided beneath the tiger’s exterior. And, to dissuade doubt, part of a tiger’s arm has been stripped of skin, sinew, and muscle, revealing a human’s skeletal hand underneath.
The tiger’s form, splayed forth in a manner recalling Medieval heraldry, it’s singular body having appendages for two beasts, is reminiscent of Aristophanes’ story of soulmates, of how humans were once comprised of conjoined male and female forms. It’s an ancient tale of how humans were deprived of their true state, which — through Fosik’s vision — perhaps indicates how mankind attires itself in an attempt to hide our animal ancestry. But, at the end of the day, a man’s skin is still the same as a beast’s hide.

Exhibition Details for Crossed Tiger Relief

Fosik’s Crossed Tiger Relief made its public display debut as part of the Welcome to New Jersey exhibition at Jonathan LeVine Projects. Having had its opening reception on Saturday, February 18th from 6-8pm, all works in this exhibition will remain on display until March 18th, 2017 at the gallery’s physical location (888 Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07306).

View the gallery’s dedicated page for the exhibition

For more information on AJ Fosik:
website | instagram

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