Joe Zucker’s quick-witted just-closed exhibition of muddy-colored paintings at Paul Kasmin began with an art historical wink and a scatological nod: Just inside the door was a canvas turned toward the wall, à la Magritte, with the words “My Stool” written on it. It was a fitting acknowledgement of paint’s primal connection to feces, art’s paradoxical public and private nature, and Zucker’s philosophically wry relationship to both. Zucker’s strong two-gallery show, the second part of which is still up at David Nolan, finds this stellar topographer of paint in an indexical, introspective, typically foxy mood. At Kasmin, he exhibited a series of diptychs titled Open Storage. Each work consisted of one poured monochrome abstraction next to a painting of a piece of furniture. Zucker gave us two modes of representation, two schools of aesthetic thought, and two ways of seeing the world.
The David Nolan show feels freer and less sepulchral. We see an opalescent series of paintings and watercolors collectively titled Container Ships. Each Léger-like work looks like a scratchy grid that has organized itself into a vaguely recognizable configuration. Squint and huge ships with hundreds of gigantic rolls of paper or canvas might come into focus. It’s an artist’s mirage or nightmare. These boats may carry this artist’s life’s work into the afterlife, or they may be future floating museums of Zucker’s wild work. Either way, it’s gripping to see an older painter openly thinking about what he might do with all the work he’s made that never sold.