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Exhibition Marks Eric Zimmerman's First Solo Museum Show on View at the Austin Museum of Art
Eric Zimmerman, Complete Cubes/Starscape (For Sol), 2010. Graphite on paper, 11 x 14 inches. Ann L. Daughety and Mary Evelyn Daughety.
AUSTIN, TX.- The ongoing quarterly series, New Works, debuts art in diverse media with an emphasis on work by artists taking steps forward in new directions. The next installment, Eric Zimmerman’s painstakingly rendered graphite drawings, sculptures, texts, and sound installations, focuses on American history, exploration, and industry.

Assistant Curator Andrea Mellard explains, “The Austin Museum of Art is thrilled to present Eric Zimmerman’s first solo museum project. Detailed drawings celebrate dreamers who tested man’s boundaries of speed, height and distance. Newspaper, a reading desk, and audio documentation symbolize the ways we learn about historical achievements that we didn’t experience firsthand. His conceptually rich, multi-media project is a reminder of when innovations, like man’s visit to the moon, were just the realm of imagination.”

With painstaking detail, Zimmerman skillfully renders iconic images in graphite. Reproductions of Clint Eastwood acting the part of an outlaw and Albert Bierstadt’s sublime painting of the Yosemite Valley evoke expansion into the rugged American West. Small- and large-scale drawings evidence the aftermath of scientific discovery, including butterfly specimens and the atomic test site in the New Mexico desert. Other drawings detail endeavors to go faster, further, and higher: automotive speed trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the aircraft Charles Lindbergh piloted across the Atlantic, and Sir Edmund Hillary weathered after climbing to the highest spot on earth. Together, these samplings of images chronicle man’s impulses to better understand the natural world and claim his place in it.

The cosmos serve as the final frontier for discovery in Zimmerman’s project. Entitled We Chose to Go to the Moon, it was inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s speech urging lunar exploration during the Cold War. Abstracted drawings contrast the artist’s poetic impressions of stargazing in a Vermont field with artist Sol LeWitt’s conceptual open cube structures. In other representational works, Neil Armstrong’s portrait as a promising young astronaut and a penciled facsimile transcript point to the first lunar landing. A sterile display case holds evidence of space exploration with a lunar landing soundtrack and geometric sculptures like moon rocks or space capsules. Once the product of Cold War imaginations, now, in an era of unmanned missions and NASA funding cuts, going to the moon almost seems nostalgic.

For all its celebration of progress, We Chose to Go to the Moon is rooted in the past. Many of Zimmerman’s monochromatic drawings reveal their sources as photographic or printed documentation. In this way the artist translates his connection to these materials through his pencil. His thoughtful use of archival sound recordings, museum displays and interpretive tools, and newsprint also evoke ways of experiencing history secondhand. Space travel may have embodied the limits of imagination, a utopian frontier, or a Cold War threat in the Kennedy era, but Eric Zimmerman is of a younger generation that didn't collectively witness the lunar landing. Thus, his project longs to find meaning from events not experienced directly, but known only as fragments of stories and reproduced images. Zimmerman’s work considers the audacious spirit of historic individuals, the forward thrust of progress, and the notion of achievement.

Eric Zimmerman earned his MFA in printmaking at the University of Texas at Austin in 2007. His multimedia work layering images of architectural space onto outer space was featured in New Art in Austin: 20 to Watch in 2008. Since beginning this project, the artist moved to New York. New Works: Eric Zimmerman marks the artist’s first solo museum exhibition currently on view through February 13, 2011.

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