Paul Zaloom (at the LACE Gallery, tonight only) is something new. Think of a Japanese bunraku master looming over his exquisite ivory puppets. Now picture the bunraku master dressed as a 1940s soda jerk. Now picture the puppets as stuff from the junk heap--detergent bottles, rubber bands, old baby shoes.
This is Zaloom's "Theater of Trash." He stands behind a bridge table and manipulates his "puppets" through little vignettes, with voices and sound effects by Zaloom. Here comes Farmer Brown (a miniature rake). Hi, Farmer Brown, how are your crops today?
It sounds like nursery school. Zaloom does, in fact, get a kick out of playing with his junk. The child in him survives. But he's not kidding. His stories have titles like "Agriculture in America," "Education in America" and even "Prison in America." He's a social critic, masquerading as a goof.
The first interest in his work is its "pretend" side. An empty detergent bottle does look something like a plump female teacher: see the shoulders? A cheap wig does have something in common with tumbleweed. A bird cage has a lot in common with a cellblock. A small red umbrella, opened and closed very fast, does suggest a cholesterol-clogged heart having a heart attack.