Somewhere along the way, I became a big fan of Conceptualism, attracted to the idea of art as a puzzle – a deception of sorts that requires one to search beyond the given for meaning. An artistic challenge easily seduces me, drawing me in, daring me to make sense of the curiosity at hand…
Joe Zorrilla’s current exhibition at Hannah Hoffman Gallery in Hollywood is the sort of mixed-media Conceptualism show that either flies or dies. Zorrilla, a relative newcomer to the Los Angeles art scene, has assembled found odds and ends from around the world and transformed them into works of art. Thankfully, Zorrilla’s fusions of seemingly disparate media hold their ground in this exhibition with cohesive themes of balance and tension that permeate the show.
The work that drew me to Zorrilla’s exhibition initially, Torn Intimacy, turned out to be even more playful in person. A plastic bag filled with motor oil hangs, like an IV, from a long, taut white string that follows the gallery ceiling and walls into the neighboring gallery and up into its skylight, where another identical plastic bag hangs, filled with golden honey.
Both materials are essential for human existence; harvested from the natural world and refined by humans to feed our collective insatiable dependence on these liquids. Torn Intimacy seemed, to me, to be call to humanity, imploring us to seek a balance between harvesting resources as if they are infinitely available and healing our life-sustaining planet for future generations to live upon.
As I moseyed through Hannah Hoffman’s sun-drenched galleries, I found a surprise from Zorrilla around every corner. An old, found wooden chair, most peculiarly, stands on a bare bone for one leg. To my delight, when I crouched down to see the bone more closely, a skeleton of another sort came into view, affixed to the foot rest under the chair – a dried out artichoke heart. This work (Untitled) reveals the tension of the thin line between life and death – “old bones” finding new life, surprising the world with a vivacity that we assume disappears after quietus.
I was also attracted to a work that I wouldn’t call conventionally appealing, but drew me in nonetheless. Impersonified, the Volume consists of a wine glass filled to the brim with water, to the point of meniscus. A fairly revolting clump of dust and hair collected from Zorrilla’s studio is pinned down under the weight of the wine glass.
This work’s obvious fragile level of stability was too enticing to ignore, though I had to remind myself that Conceptual art is less about the actual object than the process and ideas required to make it. So, of course, my brain automatically personified the artwork at hand as a self-portrait – ah, but then, there’s the title – Impersonified, the Volume… Sometimes, it’s best not to over-think it.
Though Zorrilla’s nontraditional artworks were the most delicious food for thought, my favorite works in the exhibition were new bronze sculptures of various hinges of the human body – elbows, wrists, knuckles, etc. Of course, hinges require two parts to work in tandem to achieve their full potential; a balance of sorts must be achieved for success. These bronze works, imbedded in the show amongst the other mixed media and found object artworks, literally out-shined the rest.