Zachary Royer Scholz:
New pieces arise from the old
San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, May 31, 2012
by Kimberly Chun
True to the title of Zachary Royer Scholz's current exhibition at Eli Ridgway Gallery, "Nothing Is Ever Finished," little is set in stone for the San Francisco artist - apart from the fact that everything in his life seemed to lead him toward his practice.
"As a kid, I would for hours tinker in the garage, just taking things apart and putting them together, interacting with the materials and carving things," he recalled while putting the finishing touches on the show. "Playful investigation without a goal."
Even when Scholz, 34, set off on various, seemingly divergent paths - studying mechanical engineering then geology as an undergraduate before earning his bachelor's degree in art at Stanford University - those pursuits somehow became incorporated into his art making.
"I came to the realization that structures and mechanical forces and the way objects interact with and shape each other, those critical aspects of mechanical engineering and geology and lived experience were better served by an artistic approach," he muses. "The final thing was grad school (at California College of the Arts). It forces you to blow through all the ideas you've saved on the back burner and pushes you to find out where your core interests lie."
For Scholz, those interests seem primarily embedded in sculpture, with a focus on materials - whether they're as banal as the innards of a family room couch or as random as discarded lumber unearthed at the dump. "Nothing Is Ever Finished" specifically sees the artist revisiting and reworking pieces he's exhibited in the past - "an iterative regurgitation of work," as he puts it. It's a natural extension of an artistic strategy that pivots on material with its own past life or history.
"Everything we use is in the process of being used and reused - none of it is raw," Scholz says. "After all, all those atoms were once part of an exploding star."
In the case "Nothing Is Ever Finished," split bamboo strips collected from window shades, which once sprayed and curled in an earlier work, have been refashioned into a dome, while lengths of rope that were used in a performative piece at Southern Exposure have grown a spine in a new figure-eight shape and reach for the sky. Midcentury powder-coated steel library shelves built to last forever have been reimagined as accordion-like, mirroring triangles, a reflection of a previous incarnation spent dialoguing with other structures at a Lab exhibit.
"These aren't vehicles as much as ontological beings: They have a presence and history," Scholz says of his work. "In that sense, they're a little like us. It's funny - I describe my work as realistic. It doesn't depict reality, but I really like objects that function in the same amorphous ways that our own selves exist."
One key link between these not-quite-fixed materials in a semipermanent state of flux is that they are all fairly ordinary. "In some ways, I'm kind of wary of very odd things," Scholz confesses. "I really like finding the odd or curious within the very banal, whereas things that are really odd, stop being odd."
He does, however, enjoy photographing the weird in its natural, or unnatural, habitat. "I remember one piece: These people where doing landscaping and having a giant boulder delivered, this giant rough-hewn rock on a shipping pallet with Saran Wrap around it and a label hanging off it. It was the strangest thing, and at the same time, it was waiting to be a rock. What was it while it was waiting?"