Joseph Zito – Critic’s Pick: New York

September, 2013 · by Wayne Salazar

Study after “Adrift”, Watercolor, 9″×12″, 2013

The eighteen sculptures and drawings in Joseph Zito’s latest exhibition bring together three simple forms—a rowboat, an hourglass, and a plane—with such symbolic resonance that together they produce something extraordinary: a shift out of time. Zito begins with Untitled (Clock), 2012, a sort of wall clock with three hands, each with a toy wooden rowboat attached to its end. Powered by a motor at the center, the hands circle counter-clockwise, the boats drifting backwards, as if reversing time. Nearby, a bronze rowboat nearly five inches long, Adrift, 2013, hangs at a downward angle on a long expanse of wall, as if lost at sea.

The tiny rowboats, so evocative of childhood, give way to Stand Still Goddamnit, 2012, a bold statement about time. An hourglass sculpture sits on a red shelf, scarlet sand frozen at the top of the glass. Two more versions, also 2012, bear the same title: In one, the artist has allowed the smallest amount of black sand to fall through a smoky hourglass; the other is laid on its side, minute white grains evenly distributed between the halves. Time is not reversed, but forcibly stopped by the artist’s will.

At the back of the gallery is Inversion, 2013, an enormous work spanning thirteen feet in diameter that sits on the floor. Like Untitled (Clock), this work has three clocklike hands powered by a motor but with airplanes attached to their ends, which slowly glide backwards. Roughly the size and shape of a toddler’s amusement park ride, these transports are terribly ghostly, with white plastered fuselage half gone, threads hanging, armature exposed. The mix of melancholy and nostalgia emitted here is enhanced by Henryk Górecki’s sacred-minimal “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” 1976, which plays in its entirety, first forward and then backward. Untitled, 2013, stands in counterpoint: A toy wooden plane, its wings and tail singed black by fire, is suspended high on a rod. Pointing up, not down, moving forward, not backward, it recalls a phoenix, promising rebirth.