Born in Delray Beach, FL in 1989, Tyler Levitetz is an artist, chocolatier, and self-described mad man. Dubbed “the real Willy Wonka,” his work is as whimsical and mesmerizing as the moniker suggests.

Levitetz began sculpting in chocolate. One day, while in his chocolate factory, he found himself with an entire batch of ruined chocolate. Not wanting to waste it, he decided to use it as a kind of plaster, creating sculpture for the first time. It is no surprise, then, that his art takes on a saccharine sincerity that cuts through much of the contemporary sterility of the art world. Instead, Levitetz leans into the playful while maintaining an emotional reality for his characters, with the edges frayed in a vague expectation of terror.

The fresh new voice of Tyler Levitetz rings with some throughlines to the past. Keith Haring’s two dimensional metal sculptures made an impact on Levitetz work, as well as Yayoi Kusama’s statues with their illustration-like textures. Similar influences can be sensed with his affinity for Jean Dubuffet’s cartoon-like work and Richard Prince’s ability to confound. He also draws from the expressive work of Alberto Giacometti, especially in Levitetz’s earliest pieces.

His sculpture includes welded recycled sheet metal with hand-painted designs. While he experiments in a wide variety of mediums, his main output is made up of metal sculptures and paintings.

His characters are inspired by the realm of children’s cartoons and picture books, with the motifs pushed to new, hyper-expressive levels — all of them adding up to a phantasmagoric otherworld populated by child-like monsters.

The imagery of these “Boiz n Gurlz” characters began in two dimensions as paintings. But Levitetz turned those designs into sculptures as a way to be in the room with them. They do not pretend to be fully formed beings, rather they are flat images brought into our shared world as if by some strange sorcery. The illustrated surface textures keep these sculptures inside the visual language of two dimensions, giving the viewer the feeling of walking inside a pop-up children’s book.