Two-part art

Jim Zlokovich and Joe Zuccarini

Joe Zuccarini, left, and Jim Zlokovich are working on collaborative, sculptue-and-painting installations. An exhibit for later this year is taking shape in their Sparks studio.

Joe Zuccarini, left, and Jim Zlokovich are working on collaborative, sculptue-and-painting installations. An exhibit for later this year is taking shape in their Sparks studio.

Photo By David Robert

Jim Zlokovich is an abstract painter who paints rust. Joe Zuccarini is an abstract sculptor who sculpts with rusty objects. Together, they’re working on a series of fresh-looking, two-part art.

The cavernous studio they share in Sparks is filled with all the usual art studio stuff—chairs, movable lights, canvases, miscellaneous supplies and a big space heater—plus neat stacks of industrial building materials.

Zlokovich’s horizontal, 7-feet-by-12-feet paintings lean against the walls, some finished, some still in the works. Blacks, browns, reds and oranges—in broad, horizontal strokes and drips of acrylic and oil paint on pebbly-textured canvas—meld into realistic depictions of rusted metal.

Zlokovich says the rust motif started seeping into his painting years ago when he was living in a run-down section of Brooklyn. While the paintings attest to the “urban decay” he describes, they also come off as eye-pleasing abstractions.

Zuccarini’s low, horizontal, metal sculptures sit on the floor, one beneath each painting, like a bold underline. One is made from a long, bent scrap shaped like a primitive saw blade. Another is a row of rusted trays containing water. The look harkens to some of the minimalist sculpture of the 1960s, but with a more organic look. Zuccarini’s technique is based more on arranging and assembling than fabricating.

The sculptor picks up his art supplies from scrap yards, then arranges and modifies his metal beams, pipes and industrial cast-offs with a light touch. A little welding, aligning or stacking leads right to the finished product. Zuccarini says much of the effort is in pursuing the right materials. “The trick,” he says, “is to see it and figure out how to be able to use it.”

The artists started working together after Zlokovich was inspired by Zuccarini’s 2003 exhibit at Bleu Lion Gallery. “I said, ‘I gotta work with this guy,'” Zlokovich recalls. “I don’t know who he is, but I gotta work with this guy.”

Zuccarini was easily talked into it. “We were coming from the same place, psychologically, spiritually,” he says.

Any individual painting or sculpture in Zlokovich and Zuccarini’s studio could work as a successful, individual piece of art, but when they’re placed next to each other, it works like a musical harmony, with two people saying approximately the same thing, at the same time, in different tones.

In this case, though, “saying,” is more like making open-ended references than declarative statements. Both artists allude to their work’s spiritual or meditative qualities. Zuccarini mentions “mythology” and “repose” and the universe’s symbiotic relationship between order and chaos. Zlokovich talks about transcendence, coins the term “om-like,” and brings up the Catholic notion of “purgatory, where you’re suspended in space before God picks you up.”

The two agree that these are all metaphors for life, in a general way, but they don’t want to direct viewers to read their art collaborations in any certain, specific way. “We want people to engage their own thoughts or ideas,” says Zlokovich. Zuccarini concedes that it’s the kind of art that’s hindered rather than helped by too much explanation.

The final artworks—half-painting, half-sculpture—come off as experiential. In current "Artspeak," that means you don’t have to think or theorize a lot about the artwork. You’re allowed to just look at it.