His Zuma photographs ache with romanticism, the ruins of Eisenhower's American Dream (our homegrown religion with its dream houses on the beach) found soiled and crumbling and vandalized. All of the Zuma shots are taken in one house (used by firefighters for test missions) but they seem as universal as Friedrich’s abbeys. Divola added to the defacements with spray paint and all manner of interventions while at the same time allowing the most unusual and spectacular sunsets to emanate through shattered glass and broken doorframes, sometimes beaming calm and glassy blue, other times ominously impaled with blood red.
Divola’s interventions are not based in anarchy but instead are rooted in melancholic purpose. Compare the Zuma series, for instance, with Matisse’s interiors from his Nice period (1917 to 1930, like his Vase of Flowers from 1924). Both use pattern to flatten out the picture plane; both squeeze space while bringing the ocean forward as a matter of immersive color. For Matisse, the arcadia of the Mediterranean presents the possibility of pure pleasure; the slow collapsing patterns mimic the lackadaisical urgency of the good life. In Divola’s hands, however, the same device makes the limitlessness of the Pacific register as a remote, desperate wish.