July, 2008, Daniel Zeller @ Pierogi Brooklyn

 Daniel Zeller, Enforced Toxification, 2008 Ink, acrylic on paper 16.5 x 14 in
 courtesy Pierogi Brooklyn
The drawings of artist Daniel Zeller are rife with repetition, spontaneity and mind boggling obsession. The pseudo-topographical, not so representational but definitely sci-fi/fantasy-like environments are conjured by an artist dedicated to rigorous labor-intensive discipline, turning the act of doodling into a full-time, lifetime exploratory endeavor. His works on paper were on view at Pierogi Gallery in Spring 2008, including about two dozen small drawings and two large-scale graphite on paper drawings. The resulting installation is an entrance to an alternative world, where each work pulsates and thrives within its compartmentalized self-supporting mechanism, each stemmed line simultaneously sucking in and blowing out elaborate forms into our scattered vision.

 Daniel Zeller, Invasive Seclusion, 2007, Ink, Acrylic on Paper, 13.5 x 11 inches
 courtesy Pierogi Brooklyn

Zeller works daily in his studio dedicating hours on one drawing chosen from a pile of unfinished works. He has developed a vocabulary consisting of about fifteen motifs that he incorporates into each drawing, creating either a network or a disconnect between the forms. The relationships that these bulbs and stems maintain are never predictable or predetermined. Zeller uses a spontaneous stream of consciousness approach to his work and shares this open perspective with the viewer. The viewer is left with this ungratified desire to get a grasp of what is laid out, peering as close to the paper till we are cross eyed and reaching far only to squint in search of the details.

This delectable temptation and curiosity is what gives Zeller’s drawings such illuminating power and mystical force. In Enforced Toxification, a myriad of yellow and white striped cones sprout thin antennas, transferring energy into and out of a pile of squirming webs expanding as it feeds off these undulating sources. A sense of claustrophobia heightens the tension between the shapes, as multiple layers shift and ripple within the picture plane creating a vast field of agitated movement. There is a hidden and unseen sense of reality in the work, as if reminding us that reality is never clearly determined, each turn and corner brings on a new adventure of many unexpected and surprising endeavors.

 Daniel Zeller, Synthesized Abatement, 2008, Graphite on Paper, 40 x 50 inches.

Synthesized Abatement is a large scale drawing of graphite on paper, where an environment of layered and intersecting forms transform the flat two dimensional surface into a multi-layered cross hatching of strokes. The obsessive character of these repetitive quarter inch strokes entice the viewer to enter this world of haphazard anxiety, and although there might not be a narrative with a distinct story line, we are addicted to its abstract sensuality and its evoking emotional attachment of wonder and awe. The work is executed with tender discipline, furious repetition, and inexplicably vast exploration of the topography of imagination.

 Synthesized Abatement (detail)

Zeller’s aesthetic can be attributed to the serial and determined formal practice of Minimalism and Conceptualism as created by its foremost speaker, Sol Lewitt. Although in Conceptualism there is an emphasis on the idea as predetermining the process, and the process being inconsequential, Zeller takes one idea, or in this case, one rule to have no revisions and back tracking, to create a basis for continual experimentation. The end result is one concept as body and multiple compositions clothing the idea in an endless array of variable attire. This modular system exceeds and nullifies autonomy of a singular work, and Zeller’s exploration of multiple motifs without revision is a point of departure to create serial and repetitive compositions. Sol Lewitt emphasizes the “purposelessness of purpose” and Zeller sympathizes with his unending arrangement of apparel, fashioning his field of play with a diverse array of myopic fantastical form.

In a time when we are faced with uncertainty and ambivalence about our selves and our future, Zeller subtly but successfully reflects our current concerns both personal and public, illustrating the abstract and emotional evoked beneath a formal and conceptual discipline. The artist creates relevance in various fields of comprehension, from the personal and public domain of social commentary, to the formal and historical bent of art historical vocabulary, to the sole expression of one artist exploring artistic creation.

Joann Kim

Joann Kim is a writer in New York.

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