Abstraction or Representation? Macro or Micro?: Daniel Zeller at Pierogi

Detail of Fluctuational Placement, 2015

Detail of Fluctuational Placement, 2015

I want to start with the details: the tiny repetitive marks that constitute Daniel Zeller’s ink drawings line by quarter-inch line. This close-up look is absorbing, allowing one trace each stroke and follow the patterns that accumulate. It’s easy to imagine how the drawings evolved almost of their own accord, as one mark inevitably led to next. For me, to follow with my eyes the weave and expansion of these patterns was the central pleasure of the “Daniel Zeller: Immiscible Cohesion” exhibition at Pierogi Gallery.


“Daniel Zeller: Immiscible Cohesion” exhibition at Pierogi Gallery

The exhibition consists of black ink drawings on paper in the first room, with a glimpse of a wooden structure in the room beyond. The gallery hung two earlier, colorful examples of Zeller’s work by the entryway, but I found the greyscale effect created by the black ink at a distance formed a cohesive show that steered the mind away from exuberance of form for its own sake and down the road of scientific imagery like cell slides and aerial topographical studies. The drawings often take an amorphous shape that stands out on the unmarked sheet around it to great effect. Just as the lines connect and flow out and into each other as if by some internally generated force, the overall effect suggests natural growths like mushrooms or tree trunks.

Daniel Zeller, Fluctuational Placement, 2015

Fluctuational Placement, 2015

Drawings such as Fluctational Placement looks roughly the same from a distance across the gallery, viewed as a whole from a few feet away (like the image above), and viewed from a few inches away (like the first detail image). Wherever one stands, it’s unclear whether such an image is more reminiscent of a black-and-white photograph taken from a plane or a peep down a microscope onto a bacteria colony. This vacillation between macro- or micro-view demands a constant mental readjustment as the viewer tries to make sense of it. Yet while the drawings are evocative of the real world, they remain in the realm of formal abstraction, another tension not meant to be resolved as much as considered.


Inference, 2015

In the second gallery, Zeller’s sculpture Inference fills most of the room. The formal connections between the structured armature and connective fabric of the sculpture and the artist’s drawings are clear. However, Zeller’s drawings work well on a number of levels–as representations and as abstractions–and it is difficult to imagine whether this absurd object toes that line as well as they do, even if its shape recalls a bomb or submarine.

“Daniel Zeller: Immiscible Cohesion” is up at Pierogi Gallery in Williamsburg through November 17. Unfortunately, the drawings do not reproduce well online, so  I recommend going to see the exhibition in person if you are interested.

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