E E R M I R,  Gypsum Cement, Pigment, and Basswood, 33.5 x 15 x 2.5 in, 2015



Kevin Frances: Will you tell me a bit about your working process? How do you choose your materials/subject matter? Are you working towards a goal?

John Zane Zappas: When I'm working, a concrete goal isn't really in my mind, although the finished work always has a high level of detail and material specificity. I try to avoid having a rigid intention at the outset; I find that moving in a straight line from conception to execution is when I make the worst work. There is an informal rubric that guides my decision making: an interest in ad hoc decisions and a desire to use very common materials. The material has to have a certain amount of resistance to my impulses so that there's a process of negotiation and compromise. When the piece is done, I like to feel that I've affected the material as much as it's affected me. In terms of the formal language of my work, I'm looking for a certain amount of perceptual slippage, and an uncanny mixture of familiarity and otherness. The mere fact that oblivious things can cause us to feel and think is a miracle to me and continues to push me to make new work.

T L O T L O, Gypsum Cement, Pigment, and Basswood, 20 x 4.5 x 2.5 in, 2015

KF: Can you elaborate on what you mean by the necessity of the material having a "resistance to your impulses?"

JZ: I look for materials with formal and physical properties that can play an active role in my decision making. It's important that the material presents an occasional road block that forces me to reassess where I'm going with the piece.

In the past, I worked a lot with mold making and casting plastics which I used to create a wide range of mimetic versions of found objects. When you reach a certain level of knowledge and skill in working with these overly versatile products, it becomes apparent that all that it takes to make an indistinguishable reproduction of an object is money and time. I was also feeling disillusioned with the legacy of Conceptual Art, which has absorbed the management/labor division of corporate culture. My process was feeling stagnant in that way, it had been reduced to deciding on a form, allocating the resources, and executing the idea. The older pieces always combined enough elements to form a sort of semiotic soup that was ripe with associative meanings, but there was very little room for the material to have a voice, and this unbalanced power dynamic left no space for me to learn and grow from the process of making the work.

TS I KK U N D, Fiberglass reinforced plaster, pigment, carved basswood, 14” x 4” x 3”, 2015 (image courtesy artist website)

KF: I definitely see the familiarity and otherness in your works in this show. They seem like something in between a beetle, mold, and a hat hook. Can you talk about your thoughts making them?

JZ: When I say Otherness, I mean that the works don't take any great pains to represent any one thing. This allows them to function as a sort of existential looking glass, revealing whatever it is that the viewer brings to them. These wall pieces have been simmering on the back burner for a bit since I made the first one in 2012. The surfaces have an illusionistic pull and the pieces are very flat, but the display mechanism of the hook asserts the object-hood of the work. So it's uncertain how you're meant to approach them. This oscillation between pictorial and actual space connects to a recent push in my work to make sculptures that don't know what sculpture is. What I mean by that is the pieces flirt with the fringes of what a sculpture is supposed to do. These pieces incorporate flatness and a psychic depth, which typically belong to the domain of other genres such as painting or perhaps video. Similarly, a lot of my recent sculptures are marginalized by a mundane utilitarian purpose - ashtray, iPhone dock, bench - which confuses our modes of interpretation and interaction.


Born in 1985, John Zane Zappas lives and works in Los Angelos, California. in 2012 he received his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield  Hills, MI, and went on to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture later that year. his work has been shown all over the States, with solo and two-person exhibitions in California, Arkansas, Michigan and New York.