Critics’ Picks

Installation view of Merlin Playing Croquet with his Friends, 1978.

Installation view of Merlin Playing Croquet with his Friends, 1978.

Los Angeles

Joe Zucker

Thomas Solomon Art Advisory | Bethlehem Baptist Church
4901 Compton Avenue
February 4–March 11, 2006

As if to show us the trippy fun we’ve been missing, Solo Projects is hosting Joe Zucker’s first one-person exhibition in Los Angeles. It’s a smart, chronological selection of ten increasingly busy works on paper from the 1970s—most created as studies for monster-size paintings incorporating signature shallow relief materials such as cotton and rhoplex. Zucker’s loopy drawings are half-baked but never absent-minded: A split second before the rollercoasting marker work edges any one of these apparent doodles toward collapse, a defiant image magically emerges from the fray, revealing itself as an accumulated sequence of cacophonous events that plays like the visual equivalent of a run-on sentence. A peer of the post-Minimalists, Zucker treats all-important “process” not as an end in itself but as a means of renegotiating the boundaries of pictorial art, exploring unlikely themes ranging from the containment of animals (aquariums, a birdhouse, etc.), to pirates and seafaring, to the cultural history of cotton—to name only a few disparate strands highlighted in this show. Another Zucker motif appears in Merlin Playing Croquet with His Friends . . . , 1978, in which the star-studded magician—Zucker’s avatar, trading wand for brush—joins a good share of the animal kingdom, including a charming snake that undulates through a course of wickets, for leisurely sport, a martini and, well, maybe more.