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On view June 1 thru July 27, 2013
Untitled. Image courtesy of the artist.
In Van Holmgren’s latest show at the Lift we are presented with the balanced opus of his artistic pursuits. Holmgren’s process has been distilled here into the most proportionate and balanced show I have seen at the Lift in a while. As I encountered the work for the first time at the opening a couple weeks ago, I was impressed with the color palate first and foremost. He is a master of color and, the body of work is unified by excellent color balance. As with much of Van’s past work, the concepts are usually secondary to his designer’s sense of composition and construction.
A Friend of Plants. Image courtesy of the artist.
Much of the work dwells in the land of the aesthetic effete. Cliche Chic abounds and the work tugs at the pleasure centers of my brain like a blue tongued child. I enjoy the simplicity and style of the work. Lightening bolts are implemented along with symbolic shapes for the leaves of plants, water droplets, stars, and triangles. These characters have been mainstays in the artist’s work for years and have been used in the work as functional devices. The works tend to be figural typically with a primary subject within the composition tagged to the surface using a spray can and stencil. The canvases are constructed through the use of found wood, cupboard doors and other raw materials.
A Clear History. Image courtesy of the artist.
The construction of the painted surfaces has reached a new plateau of balance and beauty. It is nearly more interesting to view the back of one of these works to see how the artist built the foundation on which to create. In some of these works it is almost as if separate iterations of the piece were created and then rearranged to create the final composition we see. The raw beauty of the wooden pieces and their conversation within the composition with the paint and designed elements is striking.
Shine Through. Image courtesy of the artist.
Ultimately, the work should reward a closer inspection. When I get up close to one of Holmgren’s pieces I want to behold the evidence of the care devoted to the surface, and to see more history of the artists’ hand. The downfall of using stencils as that primary source of content and representation in a painting is the loss of the sense of painting. The images become chosen and designed compositions rather than explorations of a medium, and the flatness of the paint underwhelms me. That said, Holmgren has always had a certain eye for depicting dimension through the use of flat shape. Almost all of his work is derivative of the silk screen process and built from layering several solid stencils of color.
Mask Method. Image courtesy of the artist.
The show at the Lift is the product of a great talent with the skill for a balance and cohesion that the eye appreciates. The newer work flirts with emotional profundity through the inclusion of figures that have torrid swirling (and hand painted) masses subsuming their heads. It is an advancement in Holmgren’s work, depicting density, motion, and clutter with loose strokes. It may serve future work to explore more looseness. This show feels like a comfortable statement of balance from an artist in complete control of a medium.
Van Holmgren’s work will be on display at the Lift until the end of July. The Lift is located at 222 4th Street in Downtown Des Moines.