Zeller’s art responds to the pressing need to advance ecological awareness beyond the commendably important deep ecology of the 1970s, which considers people to be an inextricable part of different environments, by bringing human artifacts into the equation I’m calling ‘deeper ecology.’ Zeller’s past and present work acknowledges this relationship through a range of abstract notations standing in for natural and human-made forms, making his art and its deeper ecological resonances compelling visual metaphors of the challenges presented by the geologic age we have created known as the ‘anthropocene.
We are delighted to present a one-person exhibition of recent works on paper by Daniel Zeller. In this new body of work Zeller continues to develop and expand upon his invented topo-cellular cartographic universe, utilizing the modest media of pencil, ink, and paper. The new drawings could all be part of the same world, each referencing different possible regions of that world. They seem to draw from one another—as Zeller continues to develop a language of marks and shapes—to create new terrains, new organisms. These drawings exhibit Zeller’s characteristic push/pull between macro and micro worlds, referencing biological, topographical, stratographic, astronomical, and other imagery that he has absorbed like a science nerd and reimagined to create entirely new forms. He blurs the boundaries between invention and reality with his convincing terrains, and tests even further by, in some instances, referencing actual places or entities.
Zeller’s process is direct and intuitive, consisting of a fluid series of spontaneous choices governed by self-imposed rules and conditions. The main rule is to respect what has already been put on the page, not to cross or obscure lines already laid down. A tension between spontaneity and predictability is central to this process, allowing for its inevitable evolution.
Zeller has spoken of his art as ‘combining learned patterns into something else,’ of making an ‘endless effort to be present where the mark is being made.’ …His process is improvisatory—a riffing on available means through endless permutation, an orchestration rather than a refusal of disorder. This free play within parameters is what grammars, or theories of evolution, or maps accomplish.
Included will be several new large-scale graphite on paper mounted on panel works. One—“AnWaHaSoGrMoVaWiCr”—reveals a network of tubular connectors, nodes, depressions, overpasses, arteries, and reservoirs radiating out from a densely compressed upper corner to more open visual fields, resembling an invented urban center fanning out into a more sparsely developed landscape. The title comprises the first two letters of the sites of some of the largest religious centers in the world, the outlines of which were used as direct source material: Angkor Wat, Hagia Sophia, Great Mosque of Mecca, Vatican, and Willow Creek. It reads like a satellite view over an anthropological dig of the sites of the world’s major religions superimposed atop one another, merging into one another and coexisting in the same topography. The other—“Diatominion”—is by contrast primarily a meditative field of small marks, the only ripples of variation caused by irregularities of the artist’s hand.
The recent color works are vibrant and pull you in to their detail. The intense yellows of “Subduction” shift to deep green along an undulating, rift-like crevice, resembling the movement of the earth’s crust and mantle. “Conversion” suggests a colliding of galaxies, or cellular structures, or a stratographic deep dive. Black ink works such as “Return” subtly reference the folding of skin, or Earth’s arid surfaces. As Leah Ollman noted of earlier works, “There is something of science in these marvels, and also something of the logic-bending psychedelic.”
This will be Zeller’s eighth one-person exhibition at Pierogi. His work has been exhibited widely and is included in notable permanent collections such as: the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY: Museum of Contemporary Art, LA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LA; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Princeton University Art Museum, among others. Zeller currently lives and works in Queens and Brooklyn, NY.