Mark Cooper and Joe Zane

Crafty messes
By GREG COOK  |  December 6, 2011

MORE IS MORE Mark Cooper’s individual pieces at Samson gallery are interesting, but it’s the effervescent profusion of the whole assemblage that wows.

"More Is More" is the oh-so-accurate title of Somerville artist Mark Cooper's overflowing cornucopia of an installation at Samson (450 Harrison Ave, Boston, through December 10).

>> SLIDESHOW"More Is More" + "Everything Is Coming Up Roses" <<

Right in front of you as you walk in is a tall, blobby sculpture made from wood planks cut into wiggly outlines and screwed together like the under framing for a canyon stage set. Some of its "arms" serve as pedestals for gloppy, glazed ceramic bowls and vessels. On the walls are splashy abstract paintings and paper cut out around scribbled flower doodles and then overlapped and draped down the walls like Spanish moss.

Make your way around that first wooden structure and you find more of them displaying more slumping, flaccid ceramics with the surfaces flaking off like crumbling cartoons of Delftware, or classical ceramics, or Chinese pottery just dug out of some muddy hole. Weird, fiberglass-skinned blob sculptures sit on the floor, like one that's slathered with drippy blue paint with lots of protrusions that make it resemble undersea coral. Other blob sculptures snake along the wall or dangle from the ceiling. Cooper's style is abstract, gestural, kinetic, and exuberantly messy in sunny tropical oranges, blues, and greens.

As you squeeze around various objects and obstructions, new vistas open up: a wall papered with a couple dozen scratchy doodles of wiry ferns; photos of otherworldly rock formations, a banyan tree, and lily pads — all mainly from Cooper's travels in India. One by one the pieces are interesting, but it's the effervescent profusion of the whole assemblage that wows. It feels like stumbling upon ancient ruins overgrown by a flowering jungle.


Joe Zane continues his melancholy clowning on the embarrassingly needy self-promotion and repeated rejection that often seem to be the name of the art game in "Everything Is Coming Up Roses," at Carroll and Sons (450 Harrison Avenue, through December 17).

An organ grinder monkey sculpture reaches out a tin cup begging for change. Elsewhere, Zane spells out "I'm so fortunate to get to make my art" in mirrored letters across a pink wall. A mirror shattered so that the cracks spell out "Joe Zane" is titled 7 Years Bad Luck. He paints the line "The next one will be so much better" on 13 different canvases. (It brings to mind the title of the local cartoonist Dave Kiersh's anthology Last Cry for Help No. 2.)

The dry, sadsack wisecracks from this Cambridge artist and 2008 ICA Prize finalist (he didn't win) can be too arch, too cliché. But this show is his most satisfying yet, in part because of Zane's impressive craftsmanship. It's easy to underestimate his skill because unlike other sculptors who work such marvelous sleight of hand — folks like Tim Hawkinson or Randy Regier — he makes it seem mundane. The tension between his skill and how he muffles it creates odd vibrations, like dead air on the radio.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Joe Zane, art reviews, Art,  More more >
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