The speed at which we comprehend the letter Z and assign its task, whether as a hairpin turn or the beginning of a snooze, presents us with countless direct possibilities for interpretation. As the least used letter in the alphabet, Z can be compared to an ex-planet like Pluto, whose questionable stature seems to also walk the line between inclusion and exclusion. If you were to approach the letter Z at 500 miles per hour, what type of memory would you be left with as you pass through its jagged shape?
Language and speed are inherently connected. The rate at which one can receive messages is constantly increasing, coded characters continuously flung at greater invisible speeds. As I pass the road sign for ZZYZX at 100mph, I think briefly about a 1920’s spa, I listen to the music in my car, I text, and I smoke. All of this is liquefied in the desert sun. Is this so-called town at the end of the dictionary worth visiting? Maybe I would enjoy this experience more if my car was spinning seemingly out of control.
-J. Patrick Walsh III
“Poetry, in fact, is two quite distinct things. It may be either or both. One is a series of words that are intrinsically musical, in clang-tint and rhythm, as the single word cellar-door is musical. The other is a series of ideas, false in themselves, that offer a means of emotional and imaginative escape from the harsh realities of everyday.”
-H. L. Mencken
Las Cienegas Projects is pleased to present ZZYZX: an exhibition of new work by Sayre Gomez and J. Patrick Walsh III. ZZYZX is a highway town, ranch and spa located in the Mojave Desert somewhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. According to Curtis Howe Springer, a self-proclaimed minister and medical doctor who created the word and named the site in 1944, ZZYZX is the final word in the English language and the ZZYZX hot springs are to be the “cure to end all cures”. The word was created by Springer solely to function as a linguistic anomaly, and is an interesting example of a word defined through its use rather than a word used by its definition.
For their exhibition at Las Cienegas Projects, Gomez and Walsh present a series of paintings, collages, sculptures and video that loosely explore various relationships between speed and movement, language, image and the conveyance of meaning.
Gomez continues his ongoing investigations into the ways in which meanings are contextualized and disseminated. Included are new paintings and sculptures that cite as their source a process of mining image-based blogs and online image archives. Divorced from their original context, the images––now painted––become physical signifiers of how a blogger might reassign their importance through appropriation and reuse. The paintings are complimented with a series of text works in which Gomez pulls from websites that generate Greek, a tool used by graphic designers to generate dummy text based on Cicero’s The Extremes of Good and Evil. The passage is algorithmically processed using hundreds of random Latin words subjected to a variety of permutations within pre-existing sentence structures which work to create a never-repeating, potentially endless arrangement of words and pseudo-words and create the visual appearance of the English Language. Gomez then translates this pseudo-Latin language into English. The phonetic merits of the selected phrases function much in the way that these images do, as abstractions that resonate based on their aesthetic presence rather than on their linguistic definitions.
Walsh features a series of sculptures and a single-channel video. The works thread themselves together by relating to the body’s movement through space, whether seated in repose at 0mph, walking through a threshold, or speeding in a car. In Whisper, two wax tires attached to steel rims sit on a small wooden table, behind which hangs a modified fashion poster, a checkered flag now dangling from the model’s mouth. Season 3 combines performance and sculpture into one object by drawing the viewer in through its colorfully striated threshold, created by a process of melting, coloring and forming reclaimed wax. Additional works revolve around notions of car movement (or stagnation), including Stephen King Sun Shade (SKSS), originally intended as a personal fundraising project for car improvements, which promised to block the sun from a car’s windshield while also warding off potential crooks by “striking fear in their hearts”; and Knife’s Sun, a video in which the artist removes a moldy ceiling liner from inside his 1984 Volkswagen Scirocco, distracted in the moment by the sun’s reflection caught in the knife. Cobra Gimp and Cobra Gimp Double use the armatures of two Marcel Breuer chair knockoffs to create a friendship braid-like cover around the bent metal piping.