On May 9th, an exhibition of new work by Robert Zakanitch opens at Nancy Hoffman Gallery, his first Nancy Hoffman Gallery solo show. Entitled “Hanging Gardens,” it includes ten large-scale gouache paintings, each measuring 8x5 feet. The exhibition continues through June 15th.
Eschewing some of his signature “style” and imagery, such as thick impastos, flourishes in broad gesture, zany words or animals inserted into floral patterns, Zakanitch opts for gouache, painted with gusto and physicality, to build a series of voluptuous garden images. He started with a painting of wisteria, a flower that has always fascinated him with its complexity and beauty. He completed one 8x5 foot painting of wisteria, and realized he had more to say on the subject, thus, he began a second painting of wisteria, and a third. With this core group, a triumvirate of wisteria paintings, the “Hanging Gardens” series commenced.
Zakanitch was inspired by the idea of the words the “Gardens of Babylon,” which conjures for the artist “lush images of cascading flora perfuming the air with fragrances never before smelled.“ Infused with the energy of his early days as a Pattern and Decoration painter, or P and D painter, as the group was known, Zakanitch sets up a rhythmic covering of his 8x5 foot surfaces, each with a specific flower, each based on a focal color. The palette and forms range from under the sea blue with flowers that look like sea anemones, to willowy jade green branches of bittersweet that tumble eight feet down the paper with an elusive, feathery lightness, to a startling gold and orange work entitled “Fireglow” that exudes heat as it “glows” with a pattern of flowers dancing in circles across the surface, punctuated by two birds ready to savor the glow. Birds, butterflies, hummingbirds inhabit the Zakanitch gardens, breaking through the rhythm, weaving in and out of the floral patterns. White is a favorite for Zakanitch, his palette of choice for several gardens.
At the top of each of the large works, the artist introduces a painted structure: an invented garden trellis, a wave, or a flourish that appears like a remnant of some cast-iron architectural wonder. These elements provide a window onto the world of cascading flowers, an anchoring from above.
The meditative process of repeating a flower and shape gives the gardens an aura of quiet and contemplation. In their grandeur of scale and their quietness, they suggest time, time passing, time changing. These are labor-intensive works that retain their freshness in their immediacy. Rarely is gouache used in heroic scale, rarely is the viewer privileged to feel the artist’s hand as it is felt in these “Hanging Gardens.” These are paintings about “beauty and sumptuousness and life force, about the beautiful music of humanity,” as the artist says. This is a new era for the artist, an era of luminosity and visual poetry.
Robert Zakanitch’s work has been shown at Arizona State University, Tempe; California Center for the Arts, Escondido; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York; University of Illinois, Chicago; University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City; Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, California; Museum of Art; University of Oklahoma, Norman; Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, New York; University of Nebraska, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Palm Desert Museum, Palm Springs, California; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and abroad at Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid; Fondation du Chateau de Jau, Case de Pene, France;
Galleries Alexandra Monett, Brussels; Galleries FIX des Muses de Nice, France; Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal; Kunstforeningen Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark; Kunstmuseum, Lucerne, Switzerland; Modern Art Museum, Munich, Germany; Museo Tamayo, Mexico; Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, Germany; U.S. Pavilion, 39th Biennial, Venice, Italy; Wurttembergisch Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany.
His work is included in the collections of Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo, New York; The Art Museum, Princeton University, New Jersey; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Denver Art Museum, Colorado; The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin; Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and abroad in Musee de Strasbourg, France and The Tate, London.
He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Grant.
The artist resides in New York.