Experimental and Professional at Harris Lieberman

Nik Pence

Relying on altered and abandoned sculptures from his studio, Evan Holloway is broadening his approach to early modernist formalism by incorporating familiar concepts of representation into his most recent show, Experimental and Professional. Reducing sculpture to a two dimensional surface, Holloway demonstrates the back and forth movement of photographic representation from the physical to the digital, an approach that continually delineates the actual object. Holloway’s work emphasizes art historical research, exploring the contemporary understanding of modernism and perpetuating the aesthetic appropriation of historical movements.  Using the past to reconfigure the future, Holloway muddles a direct attempt to decode history by placing himself in between loosely fitting fragments of time.

Holloway’s interplay of photography and sculpture is the most apparent experimentation in this exhibition. A series of photographs of sculptures topped with falcons divide the material intention and implied use of these structures. Acting as props or stand-ins for possible action, the staged sculptures are archived and printed as documents of a single moment. As assumed theatrics, these photographs act as film stills, indicating a more time based story hidden beneath the leaning image. Aesthetic objects that do not make the cut are discarded and given to the birds. In this exchange sculpture becomes architecture. Paired as diptychs, each set of photographs are placed on a shelf surrounding two sculptures, one consisting of brass wire coupled with a triangular brass mirror and a slowly rotating black curtain that reveals a cumbersome mass of gray polystyrene and resin. The hidden sculpture is only seen when the viewer follows the one inch slit running vertically from the theater curtain.  This work shows Holloway’s complicated relationship to fully displaying his process, one that includes both his failed projects and his reactionary editing process. Attempting to justify floundering work is comical and relies on several elements that contribute to this piece’s dark comedy, such as motorized kinetics and an overtly direct title, Dark Ride. Both of these elements, when used right, direct the conversation towards the idea of contrived amusement. In Holloway’s case this piece rides the fine line between referencing gimmick and existing as such.

The hand-welded chains that hold this piece suspended from the ceiling reflect the same construction as the soldered brass sculptures. Referencing architectural armature, such as Vladimir Tatlin’s Third International Tower, the structures sag at an angle. These brass forms are placed in front of a reflective triangle constructed from the same material that apparently weighs the same as the larger matching structure, information the artist fails to relay in the work itself. The balancing act that Holloway creates between material quality and conceptual intention is a tactic that becomes reactionary from object to object, forcing chronological and spatial assumptions.

Appropriating his own creation, Holloway’s photo series of face shaped studio scraps are examples of documentation that exceed the objects’ initial failure, giving what was abandoned a new purpose. Faces are formed from what looks like dust and dirt, apparently produced accidentally. Angled to flatten the dimensionality of the gray forms, these faces contribute to the show’s title and lack of sincerity. When using words like “professional” or “experimental,” especially when the artist makes objects alter-intentionally, then reconfigures them to represent a finished work, sincerity, insular reference and self design are ever present. This certainly applies to Dark Ride. By veiling the content in an attempt to bypass responsibility for his creation, Holloway allows something else to fill the resultant void. This new placeholder relies on the viewers’ trust of the artist’s intention and the character of the artist’s oeuvre. These issues are raised when work references its process and history with such direct efforts.

The attempt to elucidate complex issues of self-reference is an act exploited by Holloway, placing him among other referential icons in art history. Holloway’s uses history as if contemporary social media tools emerged in an alternate form, one that did not rely on external interfaces but represent a more physical reflection, much like looking into a network of mirrors.  With Holloway, circular self-referentiality exists only in the analog world rather than where we initially expect it. This is Holloway’s manner of piecing together images and icons, such as a pyramid or constructivist design, to knit a relationship between histories and a vague, undefined today.


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