Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alex Zecca injects diversity into optical marvels

by Kenneth Baker

SF-Chronicle-2012.05.26Alex Zecca has long worked with such methodical consistency that I go to each new exhibition of his expecting to see more of the same. But he has not yet failed to surprise.

Zecca’s show at Gallery 16 plays fresh variations on his familiar practice of accumulating ruled, colored lines – into the thousands per piece – so that their crossing at angles generates inevitable but undesigned optical marvels.

You move around certain of Zecca’s new works on paper expecting flickers of iridescence, so keenly do they recall the powdery luminosity of a butterfly wing or exotic plumage. But Zecca’s patterns reassert their flatness from every viewing angle.

New examples in enamel on prepared linen lend additional body to the lines’ hues, deepening and extending their optical effects. These pieces amplify familiar, though still inadvertent, echoes of American Indian textiles and even, in “Line Painting 7” (2012), of the poured color fields of Morris Louis (1912-1962).

You cannot look at many of Zecca’s drawings without wondering what he does with those that inevitably go awry, either through aesthetic failure or by an accident such as a spill or tear. In a new series of wall-mounted collages, we may have the answer.

These pieces display more overt variety than Zecca’s intact works on paper or canvas. But they all consist of wedges of ink-striated paper plainly suggesting slices of drawings spoiled, abandoned or no longer loved.

Looking like Art Deco explosions, Futurist heraldry or the brainstorms of a mad jewelry designer, the wall collages shatter the abstraction of Zecca’s familiar work, letting in humor and new associations and compositional flair.