Mechanic of anatomy: Zed springs into future fantasies

Aggie Zed, "bookity book."
Aggie Zed, "bookity book."

In Aggie Zed's world, elephants nudge abandoned stairs for boarding planes through desert sand, rats perch on befuddled figures' heads, and wires emerge from horse-machine hybrids to lift metal-winged characters into midair. The sculptor and painter's surreal visions are part Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, part Kirsten Bakis's Lives of the Monster Dogs, mixed with dashes of Mad Max 2, The City of Lost Children and Tank Girl, all stirred together to yield a post-apocalyptic dystopia that's troubling but also fun.

One of three artists showcased in Chroma Projects' current exhibit, "Miraculous," Zed's controlled chaos provides a counterpoint to the refinement of John D. Morgan's wall assemblages and Ellen Hill's carved-wood paintings. Zed's 13 mixed-media sculptures, 11 paintings, and numerous ceramic figures pulse with energy and reward viewers' attention with constant surprises. The longer one looks, the more secrets unfold and narrative possibilities expand.

Working with ceramics and reclaimed scrap metal, Zed creates sculptures that suggest a story in progress. In "loom," for example, a horse, with a body constructed of intertwined copper wire and grey metal bolts and straps, punctuated by a ceramic head and four hooves, does not walk, but instead rides high above a wheeled vehicle. This strange situation prods the viewer to ask, "What's happening here? How did that horse-or is it a machine-get up there? And where's it going?"

Although Zed embraces an intentionally rough-edged aesthetic, which finds beauty in the scrapheap, she is an accomplished student of anatomy. Her understanding of animals' biological structure, whether horses or large cats, enables her to create persuasive gestures in her ceramic figures, ranging from the dip of a head to the sideways flick of a tail. Especially beautiful is the way she combines off-white clay, tinged with grey and rust, with metal pieces, stitching wires through and around the ceramic elements. A horse with a perfectly sculpted ceramic hoof might also have another of coiled copper.

A parallel aesthetic of spontaneous energy runs through Zed's works on paper, but with the addition of vivid colors and a few cursive words. Her strange and amusing scenes, which often involve animals, feature areas of translucent acrylic color that bleed into each other and drip down the page. As with Zed's sculptures, her paintings suggest the viewer has arrived mid-event and must fill in the blanks.

Disturbing and delightful, Zed's artwork invites the imagination to come out and play.

The exhibition, "Miraculous," featuring Aggie Zed's sculptures and paintings, along with work by John D. Morgan and Ellen Hill, is on view through November 27 at Chroma Projects Art Laboratory, 418 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 202-0269.

1 comment

The piece leaves me with a feeling of great sadness. Workmanship is certainly recognizable, but there is a change in theme somehow that that holds my attention, though not in a positive way. Suppose it must be what I view as the death of the horse?

On the other hand "would do" is hardly what I would term 'positive,' but I would snatch one in a moment if I ever saw one (I live in PA).