Joe Zucker and Jim Isermann

Hosted by

In the early 1970s, when Conceptual and Minimal art were dominant, there emerged a group of artists with the seemingly radical idea of using elements of pattern and decoration in their art. This tied into explorations of gender, feminism and performance at that time. The P and D movement has its legacy in two current shows with artists from two generations.

Joe Zucker gained considerable attention in the 1970s by using cotton balls dipped in acrylic polymer to build his unconventional pictures. He showed with the Holly Solomon Gallery in New York, which supported many of the P and D group. Now based in East Hampton, he has continued to use unusual materials to explore systems of making art but this must be his most ambitious project to date.

Discussions of painting often address the basic materials of production: paint, canvas, brushes. Zucker takes them on with intelligence and wit. At the downtown gallery Maccarone, Zucker shows a single work of art: "1,000 Brushstrokes."

Joe Zucker, "1000 Brushstrokes," 2015-2017
Wood, mop heads, acrylic paint, screws; overall dimensions variable
Image courtesy of Maccarone
Photo by Joshua White

The walls of the gallery are covered with long grids made of interlocking squares. Each is composed of four industrial mops bolted together. Each mop head is covered in a different color of paint, sometimes a primary red, yellow or blue, sometimes stripes of different colors like fleshy pink and leafy green, while others are various tones of gray. Each square is an outline of a traditional canvas shape but the center is empty with a view only to the white wall supporting it.

Detail of Joe Zucker's "1000 Brushstrokes," 2015-2017
Wood, mop heads, acrylic paint, screws, overall dimensions variable
Image courtesy of Maccarone
Photo by Joshua White

The original entity, some 250 modules with four brushes to a side literally add up to the titular "1,000 Brushstrokes" and Zucker is unwilling to break it up into individual squares that could easily fit on a collector’s wall. His compromise is the 116 modules that barely fit inside Maccarone, where they have a startling impact.

Though reduced to the simplest of terms, there is a wonderful idiosyncrasy in Zucker’s dedication. The entire piece evolved from his thinking about the role of the brushstroke, even looking at paintings by Willem de Kooning and analyzing the way each individual gesture built the picture. He was questioning himself as only an artist of his experience can. The show is on view through April 1.

Jim Isermann, "Untitled (Stacked Cubes)," 2016
Rotational molded polyethylene, custom hardware
Approximately 90 x 42 x 42 inches each (228.6 x 106.7 x 106.7 cm)
Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art
Photo by Marten Elder

Another artist who regularly explores the interstices of color and form, design and fine art, modernism and post-modernism, is Jim Isermann. Younger than Zucker but influenced by an open-mindedness that was part of the P and D sensibility, the Cal Arts-educated artist now is based in Palm Springs. Though known for his paintings and his public art, the exhibition at Richard Telles Fine Art offers a pair of identical sculptures. Each is simply a pair of cubes, one balanced on its corner point atop the other. Each has a shiny steel circular base. They reference David Smith and other textbook modern sculptors. However, they are built not of welded steel but of molded plastic in the color of rust with open slats like orange crates. As he has for years, Isermann reboots art history from his own view point.

Jim Isermann, "Untitled (Donuts)," 1997
Hand braided cotton twill
Approximately 48 x 16 inches each (121.9 x 40.6 cm)
Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art
Photo by Marten Elder

For earlier example of his work, check out his 1997 sculpture of two tires, another symbol of masculinity, covered in hand-braided fabrics of orange and red, blue and green. One tire leans into the other as though exhausted by the effort of being erect. The show is small but choice. It is on view through March 25.