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signed, titled and dated twice 'Loie Hollowell "Beacon" 2018' (on the reverse)
oil, acrylic medium, sawdust and high density foam on linen mounted on panel
48 x 36 x 2 3⁄8 in. (122 x 91.5 x 6 cm.)
Executed in 2018.
Pace Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner
London, Pace Gallery, Loie Hollowell: Dominant / Recessive, August-September 2018, pp., 6, 38-39, 94 and n.p., (illustrated and installation view illustrated).

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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Head of Department

Lot Essay

Known for her pulsating colors and impactful forms, Northern California-born, New York-based artist Loie Hollowell has amassed an unparalleled and unique painterly vocabulary, making her one of the most innovative abstract painters. Referencing the body with simultaneous vulnerability and strength, Beacon is an abstract, sensual opus. It is a monument to the dynamism of paint and all that makes us human. For Hollowell, painting is indeed a beacon that can amplify pressing and interconnected conversations about life, art, and love, from pregnancy and childbirth to the Bauhaus and still life.

One of the most impactful works in her Dominant/Recessive corpus, Beacon is a painting of meticulous skill, resulting from months of careful preparatory works in pastel and composed of almost scientific applications of foam and binding sawdust. What results is sculptural and tactile like the flesh itself, or a chain of genes building upon itself and becoming undeniably physical. Recognizing a precocious talent, Martha Schwendener, art critic for The New York Times, wrote of Hollowell’s first solo show, “She is trying to create her own lexicon of forms,” and the artist has certainly succeeded (M. Schwendener, “Loie Hollowell’s Abstract Body Landscapes,” The New York Times, November 26, 2015). Beacon is a landscape of desire and light that bridges its painterly space with that of the viewer, synthesizing experiences into an entirely new visual language. Globally recognized, Hollowell’s work resides in esteemed public collections across the world, such as the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.

With elegant eroticism and an approachable scale, Beacon is akin to a tapestry that unites autobiographical and art historical references. An impossibly smooth background of modulated reds underpins the scene, all-encompassing except for the top edge, from which blue folds tumble down like a curtain enlivened with the pleasurable curvature of the body. Materializing from within the blue pigment are glowing loci of oscillating light and darkness, reminiscent of Judy Chicago’s central core imagery or even the dramatic painterly spotlights of Caravaggio. A phallic object appears, seeking not to penetrate but to exist side-by-side. Beacon is therefore a harmonious vision of sexuality and color, indeed history itself, as sites of loving adjacency.

As a result of Hollowell’s intricate process, the body/landscape rises from the panel and linen like a sculpture in relief or an illuminated manuscript, and steps into real life with tenderness and urgency. In this vein, critic Genevieve Allison writes, “Hollowell’s luminous, tonal delicacies set up formal contrasts between figure and ground, flatness and depth, fallowness and fecundity. Her surprising use of relief, created with sawdust and foam, adds an unexpected textural quality to her smooth handling of acrylic” (G. Allison, “Critics’ Picks: Loie Hollowell at Feuer/Mesler,” Artforum, n.d.). Hollowell always explores the nature of contrasts, bringing together disparate entities into an aesthetic community of equals.

Beacon is also a product of in-depth art historical study, and the result of a love for painting that drives the artist. As Hollowell says of her influences, “I come out of the tradition of American abstract expressionism, minimalism and color theory. And there’s the school that comes out of Josef Albers when he came to the States. I think that’s the conversation I’m coming from, and for me that’s a very corporeal conversation, a more phenomenological experience” (L. Hollowell, quoted in E. Spicer, “Loie Hollowell: Dominant/Recessive,” Studio International, November 9, 2018). Albers is an especially apt comparison with his compounding colors that seem to be drawn forth from the canvas’s very interior. His color theory, like Hollowell’s paintings, emphasizes balance and equality in ways both practical and metaphysical. Equally relevant are the spiritual associations of Abstract Expressionism, which sought to achieve truth through the uninhibited marks and intonations of the artist. In the tradition of Mark Rothko, Beacon is both a meditation on the immediacy and truth of materials and a portal to a higher plane of awareness. As a California native, Hollowell has also drawn from the Light and Space Movement, composed of a diverse group of artists who sought to use light itself as a medium, in her consideration of how color and luminosity can become three dimensional and interactive. Yet Hollowell’s approach is entirely her own, replete with cutting-edge, labor-intensive techniques and narratives from her life.

Beacon is a lighthouse in a sea of contemporary painting, illuminating the flesh and paint alike in a series of convergent waves. A standout work in her oeuvre, Beacon presages all that is to come for Hollowell, whose art has already been proven to be central to the history of 20th and 21st century painting. Beacon is a pioneering work that envisions unconsidered possibilities for the medium, even beyond divisions of abstraction and figuration, flat and sculptural.

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