Zio Ziegler is a classic romantic. The 26-year-old Bay Area native seems like an artifact from an idealized artistic era in which unadulterated notions of beauty are the norm. He has a whole-hearted investment in the importance of the creative process, and a thorough belief in how crucial art is in society. Recently, he began using his painting practice to explore his own psyche and learn to trust himself on a subconscious level. Now, he’s showing that body of work in Intuitivism, a solo show at LeQuiVive Gallery (1525 Webster St., Oakland).
When Ziegler is not traveling the world, painting massive murals, or opening gallery shows, he is working in his studio in the hills of Mill Valley. Visitors’ accounts all relay the same scene: Huge canvases fill every room, paint tubes and books lay strewn across the floor, and literary quotes scrawled on Post-It notes clutter the walls. There, Ziegler shuts himself in and listens to audio books all day while he fills canvas after canvas with his distinctly recognizable, statuesque figures and eclectic combinations of colorful patterns. His loose, expressive aesthetic is also reminiscent of a time past. Picasso is an immediate association for many viewers.
Ziegler first studied at Brown University, then later at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). He devours theory, but can’t stand conceptual art. He is bursting with earnest enthusiasm, and works quickly and constantly. In conjunction with Intuitivism, he painted the entire side of a three-story building across from LeQuiVive in just one weekend. The mural shows a skeleton, a two-headed man, and a woman holding a red heart. Each figure is pieced together from a collection of repeating black marks that pull each section in different directions but ultimately cohere as one gigantic, primal form.
Ziegler is known for puzzling together these black and white figures, which are at once explosive and contained. But in Intuitivism, he takes that tension further than he ever has, pulling apart the layers in his work to reveal the conflicting emotions embedded within it. In this deconstruction, he allows for a sense of gestural motion to take over the grounded consistency of his pattern work. For Ziegler, this aesthetic leap was inspired by the recognition of a similar dichotomy within himself.
Last spring, he showed in Italy, and, of course, toured art institutions while abroad. He recognized an authorial hand in the classics he saw that he couldn’t find in himself. But when he returned, he fell in love. At that point, he said, he felt he could fully let go. “Life and art were in parallel at that moment. I needed to make work that was just as visceral as the experiences I was having,” he said in an interview. He decided to stop making art with an aesthetic goal in mind, and instead see each piece as a series of welcome mistakes and unintended gestures.
Ziegler feels that society today is overly Euclidean, organized, and hyper-real. He hopes his work will disrupt that by pushing back at logical reality with candid attempts at expressing the ineffable. In an era of jaded irony and post-modern referentialism, Ziegler’s work is most bold in its devoted sincerity.
Through Dec. 5. LeQuiViveGallery.com