Critics’ Picks

The Ironies of Human Longing, 2006.

The Ironies of Human Longing, 2006.

Los Angeles

Zachary Wollard

2680 S. La Cienega Blvd.
June 3–July 15, 2006

In his paintings, Zachary Wollard, formerly a poet, finds ways to deconstruct traditional narrative by obsessively compiling images, historical references, text, and varied painterly techniques. Looking at his dense, vividly colored, almost assaultive patterning, the viewer can assemble countless stories. Reflection (all works 2006), for example, is an upside-down landscape in which people walk below a teeming metropolis. This painting could be a meditation on objectivity, showing that we must get outside of ourselves to actually see the reality of what’s around us. Or, given the title, it could suggest that our world is simply a mirror of ourselves. Wollard repeats patterns and images; butterflies recur in these paintings. They appear in their migratory flight in The Butterfly Effect and The River of Us to Them, in which little heads of influential artists and writers—among them Gertrude Stein and Agnes Martin—sprout from a crudely painted beanstalk. In The Ironies of Human Longing, a banner presents a quote from Ovid: “THE CAUSE IS HIDDEN. THE EFFECT IS VISIBLE TO ALL.” On the left side of the canvas, an elephant carries the Tower of Babel on its back; on the right, a giraffe holds galleons that could represent the Europeans who conquered the New World. A river of words falls from a tree in the center of the composition, language that literally cleaves the picture plane in two. As in other paintings on view, the animals seem to bear the brunt of human wrongdoing. Although the political elements are woeful, there remains something slightly optimistic about the magic Wollard sees in the natural world.