Jonathan Zawada

100% Potential with Ben Barretto, 2014





Etc. 2014
Oil on canvas
60 x 85 inches





Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread our eyes upon one double string 2013
Black chalk on paper
63.5 x 74 inches


Perfect Cool 2014
Digital print on silk
69 x 55 inches



100% Potential or Maybe a Potential Essay

Potential occupies the speculative spaces situated ‘in between’. A neutral space existing in perpetual stasis between an idea and its materialization, a temporary truce between a projected outcome and its ultimate resolution.

An idea, once subjected to change is no longer that idea, having shifting out of its ambiguous state into something more certain. Despite the visible presence of its decisive qualities, a work has the ability to retain a perpetual openness.

Jonathan Zawada’s painting titled Etc. was initially realized as a 3d rendering created with a program used for ‘Matte Painting’ – utilized by the film industry to digitally mass-fill a backdrop or landscape of an imagined set. The image depicts a graph of the frequency of occurrences of the word ‘etc.’ in English Language books from 1800 to 2014 as per the Google Books Ngram Viewer Project. With this data, the program has generated a graphical composition resembling liquid form. As Zawada translates the digital rendering into a painting, the image moves from static to fluid and back again as he exactly approximates the ascending translucency of a rising wave with the luscious liquidity of oil paint.

While a graphical summation of specific data operates as a method of predicting potential trends, the information being summarised in this work is ‘information’ itself. ‘Etc.’ is inserted into text to represent the extended information being omitted. It assumes a level of knowledge on a given subject, making Zawada’s Etc. a map of this ambiguous ‘knowledge’ over time.

Alongside the glittering evanesce of the ocean spray of Etc. hangs Barretto’s Bev Hills, composed of sequined palm trees alongside the dazzling rhinestones of Beverly Hills. Potentially a comment on the glamorous allure of shiny America and the promise of the potential it holds, a paradox that is at home only in the certainty of its own impossibility (or also perhaps, in Beverly Hills).

On the opposite wall of the gallery sits a large diptych by Barretto created through a process the artist collectively refers to as ‘painting paintings’. By applying lumps of oil paint in multiple colors to the surface of two canvasses and then stamping the faces of the paintings together countless times, the artist achieves a layer of monochromatic coverage. He then picks up one painting and uses the corner of the canvas frame to draw into the surface of the other. Restricting himself to the finite tool set of oil paint, canvas and his own energy, the result is a series of marks that reveal the underlying layers of colour as well as a record of the awkward physicality of this performative process. This process opens the works up to the potential of chance, an element inherent to performative and action based working.

Spaces hold the potentially of allowing ideas to come into being – a reminder of the gallery as a site of perpetual potential and also the perpetual potential of any site to become a gallery. It is somewhat fitting that this exhibition takes place in the studio of one of the exhibiting artists – as a site holding the potential energy of daily studio-based ‘making’, a dedicated space existing to facilitate the crucial considerations that transport an idea into its realization.

In a city seemingly preoccupied with self-image, self-improvement and self-reflection (an exasperating example of recursion), it is also fitting that this exhibition was self-initiated.

Barretto’s work titled Selfie Selfie (iphone version) is composed of two iphones with the cameras on ‘selfie mode’, placed facing each other to cause constant feedback which reads as flashing lights and color. This work articulates the idea of recursion, which is present to varying degrees throughout the exhibition, a concept important to both Barretto and Zawada.

In time with this rhythm and sitting adjacently across the space is Zawada’s Glitturgy, a video depicting a digital rendering of palm fronds in a loop of perpetual and undulating motion. The palms are golden in colour and glisten as if the sun is catching each motion as they hover against a blue sky while the morning fog hides the vertical interstice of its trunk. The audio for this work comprises of a layered, continuous loop of what the artist refers to as ‘audio production logos’.

Just outside the space is Barretto’s Bach’s Donuts (Dubstep Remix), another continually looping video. A compilation of found footage of a series of cars performing ‘donuts’, edited together to form one seamless loop to a found remix of the Johann Sebastian Bach composition; ‘Air’. Like Selfie Selfie (iphone version) and the Glitturgy, it alludes to the ability for self-documentation and self-portraiture to infuse the fiction of self-invention into the real.This work leans against a dumpster in the alleyway, directly outside the exhibition space. Fixed to this dumpster are the chrome-finished car badge lettering of the word POTENTIAL, an idea conceived by Zawada after consistently noticing product names (for cars, vacuum cleaners and garbage disposals etc.) which included terms such as ‘executive’, ‘pro’, ‘sport’ and ‘deluxe’, interpreted by the artist as an assertion of the cultural and commercial focus toward the notion of potential over actual.

Barretto’s Maximum Contour and Untitled (Bronzed) consist of canvas stretched over sculpted frames. Inspired by car panels, these works approximate the contours and dents found on automotive bodies and the vinyl decal illustrations that often overlay them. Untitled (Bronzed), like Selfie Selfie and RunDNA rest on top of a temporary floor installed in the space, a material used as carpet underlay and composed of thousands of small dots of multi-colored foam.

Like Zawada’s RunDNA works and stereogram drawing (Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread our eyes upon one double string), and Barretto’s ‘painting paintings’, the individual components of the material occasion its true image or materiality to be initially experienced as a kind of fuzz, blurred by its vast scale and our ranging focus. This underlay material anticipates a pending decision, its presence here, paused in the tentative space between possibility and certainty is a loose structure providing the foundation for an idea – the intention for which remains a mystery but shows 100% potential.

- Caitlin Talijancich, May 2014.