New York


Phyllis Kind Gallery

Zush sounds like a nom de tag, like the signatures that are becoming as familiar to gallery-goers as to subway riders, but Zush is not a graffiti artist from New York, he’s a psychedelic artist from Spain. Apparently he took the name after a mental patient called him “Zush!”.

Like many mental patients Zush inhabits a world of his own, but he makes sense of that world by recreating it and articulating it in his art—in paintings, drawings, and books. Zush’s world is an imaginary nation, the Evrugo Mental State, for which he has created a flag, currency, postage stamps, an anthem, and a language. The language is called Anura, and most of his pieces contain a lot of calligraphy in the Anura alphabet.

Private worlds are often boring except to their immediate inhabitants, but Zush’s world has many interesting manifestations. It is filled with psychedelic visions, organic forms that link the world of exterior shapes with the inner world of synapses and biochemical action. Some of his drawings contain tremendously detailed designs inspired by biological geometry, but where most drawings of this sort are obsessive or distorted, Zush’s are wild but eccentrically harmonious, like the designs of Indonesia.

Zush has a fine hand, and his best pieces are drawn in Rapidograph pen and filled in with watercolor, sometimes with pearlized powder or makeup added for surface radiance. Sometimes he uses nail polish, especially polychromatic or glittery kinds. Many of his images are like the wilder panels of “head” comics. Depicting a sort of surreal tantric psychobiological process, they sometimes are made for such a process: some are “cure pieces” intended to banish illness.

Much of Zush’s work is contained in large books similar to the “trip books” kept by many artists and dabblers in the ’60s. These books are filled with drawings, collages, found objects, Polaroids, and voluminous calligraphic notes in Anura, often all on one page. The pages have an inter-resonance that makes them more appealing than an individual drawing on the wall. Moments in a process, they are informal, on intimate terms with their maker.

The show sounds like something I wouldn’t like, but I like it. The work is cosmic but it’s witty too. Zush draws faces on photos of his own CAT scans. His Evrugo dollars and passports are amusing. His language looks good, even if it’s incomprehensible. But most of all I like the fact that his output is his life. It is unedited, and better for that. It’s all-encompassing but also casual. Vision can be a bore when it doesn’t let up; even William Blake’s solipsism can get tedious. Perhaps Zush has avoided tedium by confining his writing to his own opaque tongue. His world view seduces rather than proclaims, which is one difference between art and symptoms.

Glenn O’Brien