10.04 – 6.06.2014
ZIO ZIEGLER – Et in Arte Ego
curated by Ivan Quaroni
Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea is proud to present Et In Arte Ego, the first Italian solo show of Zio Ziegler, San Francisco based artist and enfant prodige of Californian street art.
Born in 1988 in Mill Valley (California), Zio Ziegler is mostly known for his huge mural paintings characterized by gigantic zoomorphic figures drawn with pronounced outlines and filled with intricate patterns made of finely detailed lines and signs.
His street art, created in black and white with a style reminiscent of primitive and tribal art, is scattered throughout the entire San Francisco Bay area, from Mission District to Sycamore Street, up to Facebook general headquarters in Manlo Park, but also in Los Angeles and in San Juan (Puerto Rico).
While in his wall paintings the visual approach is defined by a marked and sharp stroke and by the characterization on ample surfaces of odd figures inspired by primitive mythology and nature – elements that cause a strong impression on passers-by -, in his studio works, such as drawings and paintings, the colour prevails and the design becomes more complex.
The employ of patterns, an element typical of his style, originates an effect of estrangement on the observer, promoting a repositioning of the attention from exterior to interior reality – in effect, the artist tries to recalibrate traditional perceptive models through the exasperated use of decorative schemes.
For Zio Ziegler, painting is a sort of introspective investigation and a spiritual discipline, an erratic journey through the meanders of the collective and individual unconscious.
Extremely productive and fast when it comes to mural paintings – he can finish one in the time span of one day -, in his studio work the artist becomes more pensive.
Ziegler declares he is equally inspired by street art and European modernism (from Braque and Picasso, to Leger), but also by classic literature and theatre, and by the organic shapes of nature.
The tension between nature and artificiality, between intuition and reason, is one of the recurring themes of his opus, which does not contain specific meanings, but instead is the expression of the artist’s moods, merged by a mix of suggestions derived from his readings and his observation of reality.
Eclectic and multiform genius, Zio Ziegler does not restrict himself to painting on walls and canvases, but also applies his style to any kind of surface and support, from the bodies of luxury cars, such as Porsche and McLaren, to skate ramps and sneakers.
Certain that art should be accessible to anyone, Ziegler founded Arte Sempre™, a society based in an ex greenhouse in Mill Valley, called The Greenhouse, that sells original images by the artist printed on objects and garments, such as hats, sweaters and t-shirts.
Et In Arte Ego, a project especially realized for Antonio Colombo’s gallery, takes the cue from the maxim Et In Arcadia Ego that appears in the titles of several of Nicolas Poussin’s paintings.
The sentence, ideally uttered by Death on a tombstone, means “even in Arcadia, there am I”.
It’s a memento mori, an admonition on the ephemeral nature of pleasure, that Zio Ziegler turns into a new phrase on the role of the ego in art.
Et In Arte Ego replaces the utopia of Arcadia with painting, identifying (creative) death with the doubts and the contradictions inside the artist’s mind.
As Ziegler himself states, “the greatest paintings weren’t made under the pressure of the zeitgeist, but come from the nothingness of the mind”.
The new works of the Californian artist therefore are the testimony of a sincere artistic pursuit that does not obey conventions and trends, but finds its originality in a process made of sudden intuitions and unexpected revelations.
On show more than forty works: large canvases, sculptures and works on paper, in addition to a big format wall painting at the entrance of the gallery.
Zio Ziegler was born in 1988 in Mill Valley (California).
He lives and works in San Francisco.
He studied Philosophy at Brown University and Painting at Rhode Island School Of Design.
His wall paintings and works can be found in many places and galleries around the globe.
Et In Arte Ego at Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea gallery is his first European solo show.
Among his solo shows: in 2014, Chasing Singularity, Artists Republic 4 tomorrow, Laguna Beach, CA; in 2013, The Infinite, Gallery 81435, Telluride CO, Chaos/ Clarity, Ian Ross Gallery, San Francisco, CA; in 2012, Lost Illusions, Project Gallery, Hollywood, CA.
Among the group shows: in 2013, Winter Group Show, Stolen Space Gallery, London UK, Rise Above, Las Vegas NV, Neu-Folk, Lequivive Gallery, Oakland CA; Confluence, 5024SF Gallery, San Francisco CA, Complex Gallery, Portland, OR, Santurce es Ley, Museum of Contemporary Art Puerto Rico, San Juan Puerto Rico, Young Americans, Singapore Indonesia; in 2012, FlashBang, Project One Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Primeval, Carmichael Gallery, Culver City, CA; and Chromatic: An Undeniable Experience, Roll-Up Gallery, San Francisco, CA.
His work was published in many important international newspapers: The San Francisco Chronicle, Vice Magazine, Seven by Seven Magazine, Four Magazine, The Las Vegas Sun, Juxtapoz Magazine, Hi-Fructose, Vans, Argot & Ochre, Unruth, Complex, Booooooom, Arrested Motion, RVCA and Marin IJ.
Zio Ziegler – Et in Arte Ego
by Ivan Quaroni
“All true artists, whether they know it or not,
create from a place of no-mind,
from inner stillness.”
To see him paint a wall with his spray cans is like a sudden epiphany. He starts at any point on the surface and fills all the available space with his intricate figures, without following a plan or a preparatory sketch. Zio Ziegler, born in 1988, is the new enfant prodige of California street art, capable of making big graffiti pieces in record time, which he has done throughout the Bay Area of San Francisco, from the Mission District to Sycamore Street, all the way to the Facebook headquarters at Menlo Park, but also in Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, Cuba, New York and Tokyo.
In Milan, in just a few days, he has created three large murals: one at the headquarters of Cinelli, the historic bicycle brand; a work fifteen meters long in the Repubblica rail bypass (a gigantic tribal Venus); and the third in the gallery, to introduce the works in his first solo show in Europe.
Because Zio Ziegler is not just a graffiti artist, but also an artist tout court, of the kind that spends the whole day painting, meditating on the magnificent and progressive destiny of painting.
His studio in Mill Valley, in a house on a hill near Sausalito, is a sort of buen retiro where he spends days working incessantly, far from the distractions of the city. He claims to be something of a bear, but he roams the world like a globetrotting compulsive scribbler, always ready to mark out territory with his striking visions, an evocative mixture of tribal art and avant-garde Cubism, Pop style and primitivism, seriously afflicted by horror vacui.
His wall paintings, strictly in black and white, represent bizarre figures inspired by mythology and nature, hybrid creatures drawn with incisive, almost brutal strokes, shaped by intricate overlapping of graphic and ornamental motifs.
The use of patterns is a typical element of his pictorial style, intended to create an effect of disorientation in the observer and a resulting slippage of attention from outer to inner reality. Although the giant size and optical impact are the strong points of his graffiti, inhabited by impressive totemic animals and zoomorphic hieratic Venuses, where the apotropaic fetishes of primitive societies and the restless muses of the symbolist imaginary seem to coexist with ease. His purpose, in fact, is to break down the wall of indifference of passers-by, shaking them out of thoughts of everyday worries, bringing them back to the beauty of the present. This happens, for example, in the oblong mural entitled The Venus of Milan, looming in the heart of the city’s subway system, like a sort of wild suburban carpe diem.
Ziegler’s research is joyful and vital, but it is also very concrete. He calls it “physical art for a digital world,” though paradoxically his works have won the hearts of the tycoons of Silicon Valley, personalities like Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and the first president of Facebook, who commissioned him to make a mural for the Menlo Park headquarters, or Shervin Pishevar, director of Sherpa Ventures, who asked the artist to paint his luxurious McLaren.
What is attractive about Ziegler’s work is the boundless energy, a sort of athletic and competitive fury that explodes in a thousand colors in his paintings on canvas and in the drawings, like large postmodern patchworks, in which all his artistic and literary passions converge.
His sources of inspiration are as varied and eclectic as his style, ranging from theater to art, passing through comics, illustration and folk culture. He reads David Foster Wallace, Somerset Maugham and Dostoyevsky, and the comics of Robert Crumb; he studies the art of Rousseau, Picasso and Leger, as well as contemporaries like Cy Twombly and Thomas Houseago. In short, he is informed, fast, omnivorous and, furthermore, dreadfully young. All qualities that translate into a reckless use of painting, flouting the traditions and stylistic hierarchies that weigh down his European colleagues. For Ziegler, who studied philosophy at Brown University and then painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, art is not a game for an elite few, but a universal language that can be enjoyed by all. Maybe this is why, in the past, he has applied his style to any type of object and surface, from the bodywork
of cars to the skateboard ramps to running shoes. Convinced that art should be accessible to people from all walks of life, he founded Arte Sempre™, a company located in a former greenhouse in Mill Valley, renamed The Greenhouse, which markets original images of his works, printed on garments, hats, hoodies and t-shirts.
Today, however, he swears he has set aside his side projects to focus exclusively on painting. The new paintings, in fact, reflect greater concentration and complexity. Prolific and very fast when he produces wall paintings, Ziegler reveals a more meditative character when he paints on canvas. For him, the practice of painting is a form of personal investigation and, at the same time, a spiritual discipline that is expressed in the form of an erratic path through the winding bends of the individual and collective unconscious. The tension between nature and artifice, instinct and civilization, is one of his favorite themes. His works never allude to precise meanings, but are visual translations of impressions and moods, often based on observation of reality.
Et in Arte Ego, the project created for Galleria Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea, takes its cue from the motto Et in Arcadia Ego that appears in the titles of paintings by Nicolas Poussin. The phrase, ideally spoken by Death over the inscription on a tomb, is translated as “Even in Arcadia, there am I.” It is a memento mori, a warning about the ephemeral character of pleasure, which Ziegler transforms into a new phrase about the role of the ego in art.
Et In Arte Ego is a reflection on creative death, on that mass of doubts and contradictions that can often prevent artists from making honest works, works that do not conform to the tastes and fashions of the time.
According to Ziegler, “the greatest paintings were not made under the pressure of the zeitgeist, but spring from the void of the mind,” i.e. from a creative dimension that transcends the limitations of the ego. Maybe this is why his work seems so eclectic and polymorphic, almost as if it were the product of a multitude of different styles and languages, of a collective memory the artist recovers and adapts to the needs of a Liquid World – as Zygmunt Bauman defines it – that is increasingly subject to processes of dematerialization.
Different souls, in fact, coexist in the art of Zio Ziegler. While in works like Figure without Expectations, Her Mystery, The Spring Time and Fate’s Intuition an archaic taste prevails, reminiscent of the lesson of European Modernism, other works like Et in Arcadia Ego, The Chains of Not Choosing and Portrait of Her even convey echoes of Byzantine art and precious touches typical of the Viennese Secession.
Like a websurfer accustomed to looting the immense image reservoir of Google, the young artist from California roams far and wide through the history of art in search of inspiration. It is no coincidence that his tendency to combine different images reminds us of the digital logic of cut and paste, clearly evident in the paintings Pattern and Movement, When No Man is King Every Man is King, Pattern Study #1 and Portrait Consumed by Pattern.
At the bottom line, in spite of his aversion to fashions and his sincere admiration of the great masters of the past, Ziegler remains, more than ever, a product of his time. One of the few to have understood that combining the present with the past is the only way to achieve truly authentic art.