SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS, SCENE MAGAZINE, AUGUST 15–21, 2008

Analytical asides
Mel Zaid, Jack N. Mohr and Francis Scorzelli present art with an analytical mind
By Josef Woodard, New-Press Corespondent

Conventional wisdom, theory and medical science have it that right brain activity is the artist’s best friend, the domain of intuition and creative “aha” moments. We tend to simplify the process and accept the right brain theory as fact, especially in the arts.

Not so fast, says Mel Zaid, the longtime Santa Barbara engineer and artist. Zaid has come to the defense of the cranial underdog factor, praising the powers of the more analytical “left brain” sector in the process of what makes art come to fruition. Joining forces with other local artists, mixed media artist Jack N. Mohr and painter Francis Scorzelli, Zaid puts forth a concept in motion and in action, dubbing a Framework exhibition — and its ideological backdrop — “Left Brain Art.”

In his statement in the gallery, Zaid proposes a method of art-making from an idea to execution to presentation, within the three-step, three-E context he calls “Explore, Explain and Exploit.” Whatever one makes of the ideas buzzing beneath and around art, the work itself does its own bidding on a purely perceptual basis.

Zaid’s sculptures have been seen around town in various spots and group shows, and his three-dimensional has frequently made its way into the longstanding art publication — founded in Santa Barbara in 1981 — known as “Art/Life.” Seen in the gallery, a selection of Zaid’s sculptures conspire toward a coherent, und unusual, persona.

Working in aluminum and bronze, Zaid swerves between poles of figurative and abstract imagery, operating in a realm where mysticism and science aspire to meld. Facial profiles and natural, cosmic forces are often courted, as with the mirror-image profiles in “Time Slice, Positive Space.” “Axial Motion of Null Trace in Moebius Space-Kena” combines an outlined facial reference with a shape evoking some centrifuge-like time-space continuum.

Mohr, who also runs the Artamo Gallery, is in some ways more down to earth than Zaid, including his choice of material — glazed high-fired ceramics. Mohr’s small-scaled “Reduction” series of white-on-white relief sculptures presents witty, teasing variations on the theme of impressions of layered, concealed activity and objects. Impressions of peeling paint, sardine cans, enigmatic balls seeking liberation, and the occasional nail work into the mix. Construction and deconstruction are opposing, but also conspiring, energies.

In quite a different stylistic and expressive corner than the three-dimensional artists in the room — and with what appears like a right brain activity in overdrive — is painter Scorzelli. His large, loud and busting paintings are created with a boldly intuitive eye and hand, with a vivid palette and visceral outcome.

In these canvases, dense and overlapping thickets of shape and color — like antic conversations with freely-interrupting parties — somehow blend the cerebral spirits of abstract expressionism and more native milieus of folk art. Whichever side of the brain they favor, these paintings make a joyful imagistic noise.

 

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