Last night I walked out of the blazing heat into the cool cocoon of The Lift to view Van Holmgren’s new show, “S.O.S.”, and found the artist himself seated with friends, flashing his signature grin through the dark of the bar. For Holmgren, who has received national attention recently for his mural featured on “The Bachelor” and his live painting of a food truck that turned the heads of Wu-Tang Clan, “S.O.S.” is a departure from his previous work and takes a turn down a more serious alley.
The show reflects upon the ways in which S.O.S., the internationally recognized distress signal for “Save Our Souls”, has lost its prevalence as it has been replaced by other acronyms used in everyday life of texting and social media. Holmgren says:
“When I look at the content we post in social media, a majority of what is shared are cries for help. The constant struggle of people in our country and around the world is at the forefront of our culture, and fresh news stories come out every day with that theme. The world is spiraling more and more out of control as we live and work for the ideal lives we all deserve.
Money and power are both at the root of the problem, controlled by the very people that we look to for help and protection. This show illustrates and reflects our interactions with these necessities and our resulting cries for help: white picket fences to symbolize our ideal lives in which we are all safe with no fear; cardboard signs are used for begging on the street by people without a home or family; traps set and arrows shot by the same people we look to for protection; bottles used either in celebration or as a way to numb the pain.”
Holmgren’s signature style fits well with this commentary on modern society and delivers his message by provoking thought rather than slamming his audience in the head with a sledge hammer. Viewers feel clever in connecting to the images, and through this experience, the message is made even more powerful.