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Standing in a Sunrise

Standing in a Sunrise
signed, titled and dated twice ‘“Standing in sunrise” 2020 Loie Hollowell’ (on the reverse)
oil, acrylic medium, sawdust and high-density foam on linen mounted on panel
183 (H) x 137.4 x 9.5 cm. (72 x 54 x 3 3⁄4 in.)
Executed in 2020
Pace Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Shanghai, Long Museum West Bund, Loie Hollowell: Recalibrate, 24 April - 11 July 2021.

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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Senior Vice President, Deputy Head of Department

Lot Essay

‘By layering the concerns of painting on top of hand sculpted bodily surfaces, these shapely forms exist in a space between the illusoriness of painting and dimensionality of sculpture.’——Loie Hollowell

Standing approximately six feet tall, Standing in a Sunrise by Loie Hollowell radiates light and surrounds the viewer as though animated by a sacred source. It shares the same signature symmetrical composition with her other record-breaking work and is without doubt an iconic masterpiece in its own right. For Hollowell in both her private and artistic spheres, 2020 was a particularly remarkable year—in addition to creating this exceptional piece, she also gave birth to her second child. In Standing in a Sunrise, she deconstructs the female body through a symmetrical composition, geometric abstraction, and textured illumination to convey a clear message about the profound nature of life creation. The viewer will first be drawn to the central axis of the painting that extends all the way down. From top to bottom, the almond-shaped mandorla in diamond hues, pairs of double hemispheres, and lastly concentric rings of haloes in changing tones are all evocative of the breasts, belly, and buttocks of a female body as if emitting the gentlest light. In addition, the artist deliberately spreads her colours out that gradually dim from these centres. In the upper register, not only do the intricate spiral patterns and textured sponge marks reflect the light that hits the painting surface, they also add to the work’s overall sculptural and tactile quality. In short, Hollowell breaks free from the mimetic constraints of the corporeal reality and presents to us the intense yet fragile moment of childbirth through her personal and bodily experience.

While the sunset as a subject matter has occupied a great presence in the history of art, it is Monet’s Impression, Sunrise that has manifested itself as the image that would serve as the catalyst for Modern art and its subsequent investigation into abstraction. As the American essayist Clement Greenberg once said, it is through Monet’s work that ‘we find any possible precedent for the elision of light-and-dark contrast that Hofmann dares to make for the sake of pure, singing color’ (C. Greenberg, Art and Culture, New York, 1971, n.p.). Taking clues from her predecessors, Standing in a Sunrise asserts its modernity by collapsing the pictorial distinction between colour and subject matter. Hollowell even takes another step further in the discourse of the total abstraction of nature, allowing simple colours and geometric forms to reinterpret the natural landscape—so much so that they dictate the abstract concept of sunrise.

Born and raised in Northern California, Hollowell received a BFA in sculpture and performing arts at University of California Santa Barbara in 2005 and received an MFA in painting from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012. Her paintings have been described by the New York Times art critic Martha Schwendener as ‘abstract body landscapes’ (Martha Schwendener, New York Times, New York, November 26, 2015). Many of Hollowell’s constructs in her work draw from religious iconography including the medieval almond-shaped mandorla and the gothic architectural form of ogee. Nonetheless, most of her artistic inspirations in fact comes from the Art Decor architecture located in New York in which she currently resides. Meanwhile, the warm California sunlight that Hollowell was abundantly exposed to during her childhood made her all the more sensitive to the intricate relationship between light and shadow. This is not to mention the significant role in her artistic development of the Light and Space Movement that originated in the 1960s in Southern California. In Standing in a Sunrise, Hollowell carefully sculpted the fluid beams of sunlight in quasi-three-dimensional forms with her powerful techniques of partial relief, chiaroscuro, gradient colours, and delicate brushwork. Bringing about an almost trompe l’oeil effect, this exceptional work challenges the viewer to rethink the dimensionality in our space. In 2021, the present work was exhibited in Recalibrate exhibition in Long Museum, Shanghai, marking the artist’s debut in China.

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