Darryl Zeltzer

Zoe Gallery

Darryl Zeltzer’s recent showing of paintings balances East with West, Oriental mysticism with technology, figure with ground. These works were prompted by frequent visits to India, and they reveal a deep commitment to the environment, to natural materials, and to sacred imagery. Many of the pieces have been painted on handmade paper. In Flabellum, 1989, the central image is drawn in pencil, then covered with a mixture of tar, oil, and beeswax. The paper resembles vellum and is mounted on wood and framed in cold rolled steel. This contemporary ideograph can be read in a variety of ways: as a tree graced by a circular halo, as an anthropomorphic and anatomical ribbed animal, or as indecipherable calligraphy. “Flabellum” is the Latin word for fan, and this suggests yet another reading. Drawing on both abstraction and figuration, Zeltzer subtly imbues his work with a sense of the sacred.

The artist’s sense of poetry is evident in his titles and in his deeply felt imagery. Language of Whales, 1989, for instance, reads figuratively as an elephant. However, it makes broader reference to ancestral rising and to endangered species. Here, the whale is camouflaged as an elephant, another of the earth’s vanishing creatures. The small talismans here were accompanied by a single monumental canvas, entitled In Dic Stupa, 1989. The work’s title is Zeltzer’s shorthand reference for the country of India and for the stupa (or Buddhist mound) that he visited in Sarnath—the supposed place where Buddha gave his first sermon. The image on canvas appears as an angelic winged figure praying at the top of a mountain. Equal weight is given to figure and ground, and the canvas plays host to a multiplicity of symbols, such as an eagle preparing to soar from a tree on a cliff. The rice paper background gives an unexpected quality of fragility to this imposing work.

Francine A. Koslow