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September 12 - November 17, 2001 at Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, West Side

by Diane Calder

Sarah Perry is known for working with disparate ideas and materials, and she pushes the limits with Beast of Burden, a nine-foot rocketship fabricated from horse and cattle bones. Overriding concerns that it might not be practical to collect, bleach, store, organize, arrange, file, fit, fasten, balance and transport her materials, Perry has created a challenging work that forces us to expand our sense of time/scale continuums. The stretch reaches from a brutish past represented by the bones of beasts (a universal element referencing our common ancestry), towards futuristic dreams inferred by the rocket. There’s a cumbersome edginess to the work, suggesting the resurrection of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue in a rocket scientist’s garage. More importantly, Perry’s selection of materials implies that we carry the weight of history in the marrow of our bones.

With Pull of the Moon Perry proves that she can also be simultaneously obsessive and thought provoking with minute materials. This incredibly delicate, intricate, balanced tower of tiny rodent bones, painstakingly extracted from owl pellets, becomes incrementally more open as its curves disintegrate into space. The piece provokes a sense of the journey of multitudes, steps towards the unknown, transitions and death. Perry is again asking, “Where are we going?”

May All Your Dreams Come True reverses directions with a whirlwind of bones in the shape of a tornado. The title suggests Dorothy’s journey to Oz, and her realization that “There’s no place like home.”

References to transformation and transition also abound in a series of works Perry has built around birds. She binds the remains of a hummingbird until its mummy-like corpse resembles a cocoon. She adds the suggestion of the enormity of time with galaxies formed by a toss of bone dust.

Sarah Perry, "Pull of the Moon,"
bones/glue/bone putty, 1990-2000.

Sarah Perry. “Beast of Burden,”
horse and cattle bones/bone putty/
metal screws, 120 x 54 x 48", 2001.

Sarah Perry, "May All Your Dreams
Come True," retile and bird bones/
wood/glue, 70 x 14 x 14", 1999.

Peter Zokosky, “Serpent,”
o/c, 21 1/2 x 23 1/2" 2001.

Peter Zokosky, "Habilis,"
o/c, 10 x 8:", 1998.

Peter Zokosky, "The Monkey's
Bones," oil on panel, 20 x 24", 2000.
All of Perry’s work has to conform to her impeccable standards of craftsmanship. If the glue shows, the magic of the image is spoiled. Peter Zokosky builds on his equally high standards of draftsmanship to do what acclaimed writers and actors have always done. Rather than describing a character second hand, through the eyes of a narrator, he becomes any character that holds his interest. Zokosky’s research, empathy and artistry enable him to paint worlds that a viewer might otherwise have difficulty accepting. Disbelief can’t stand up to the evidence presented that Zokosky has felt the angle of the light, the temperature of the air, the weight of the atmosphere on his subjects.

Take Rootman, Zokosky’s androgynous, vegetarian, fertility figure. The poor fellow has been neatly decapitated by some unseen boxboy who didn’t even bother to ask if you wanted the tops off. Of course you have to believe in Rootman. Who could invent the just-yanked-out-of-the-earth, death-like pallor of his skin or the strategically placed creases and wrinkles on his shriveling appendages? He’s lifted off the panel that backs his misshapen body by carefully realized shadows that testify to the weight and actual presence of this trophy, this freak of nature who might be the root of all life.

Links to origins and endings abound in Zokosky’s imagery. Serpent loops thru a yellow soup, modeling reflections of DNA on a misty pond. The skeletal Camel, whose curved ribs cast electric blue shadows, strides before pyramids where artists once enlivened pharaohs’ tombs with flatly painted images dedicated to servicing every need in the afterlife.

Zokosky’s imagery is loaded with references to various histories of art, science and distant cultures. Like poetry, it sets your mind racing from one association to another. The work is layered with meanings, literally and metaphorically.

The peeling away of skin is a frequent theme in both Zokosky’s paintings and bronze sculptures. The artist’s quest to uncover layers is rooted in his awe of the beauty and complexity of life and his interest in the underlying links between life forms, especially humans and simians. His early talents in art and science were nurtured by parents (both painters) who provided everything from a steady supply of art materials to in-house rhesus monkeys, Jessie and Jezebel, as companions.

Both Zokosky and Perry have something in common with David Wilson, the creator of the Museum of Jurassic Technology. They share an almost childlike sense of wonder at life’s absurdities. Their capacity to artfully manipulate science to their own ends compels us to accept amazing visions.