One Opening Leads to Another: Loie Hollowell’s Amsterdam Debut with GRIMM Gallery
Though I'm typically drawn to more traditional and figurative work, there is no way to be indifferent to Hollowell's elegant and radiant creations. The way she breaks from the flatness of the panel to create balanced abstractions of bodily landscapes is as mind-blowing as her ability to then polish the surfaces with delicate textures, pulsating tones, and sweeping gradients. The beguiling compositions entice the viewer with technical complexity and contextual specificity. And after exploring themes of sexuality, fertility, conception and the role of women in today’s world in a previous show, One Opening Leads to Another focuses solely on the act of giving physically and emotionally.
As fans of the work, I was curious to get an early look and learn about the new pieces, so got in touch with Loie for a brief chat about the exhibition. Turns out, she has a deeper connection to The Netherlands than expected, to the point that some key elements of her work are informed by personal experiences with Dutch art and artists.
Sasha Bogojev: What type of work are you preparing for the Amsterdam debut?
Loie Hollowell: For this new show at GRIMM, I wanted to explore the act of childbirth, how kinetic, transformative and monumental the entire event is. I want to depict not only what it feels like to push out a baby but also the headspace you’re in, before, during and after. The paintings in One Opening Leads to Another touch on the physicality of childbirth, the transfer of energy through bodies and the mental and emotional metamorphosis that takes place.
In my last show at Pace in New York, I presented works that were more portraits of my body, how the world saw me and my pregnancy. For this show at GRIMM, paintings are more ephemeral, more rooted in experience. They serve as an up-close view of the external and internal movements of the entire process of childbirth.
Do you have any personal experiences with Amsterdam or Dutch culture?
It’s funny you should ask, because right after I was born, my parents moved from Minnesota to the town of Renkum, just outside Amsterdam. My dad was given the chance to participate in a year-long painting residency. He’s a Realist-Pointillist painter, and ever since I can remember, he was fascinated with Dutch painting, especially how the Masters handled trompe l'oeil and effectively captured light. Although I don’t have any clear memories of my time there, I have some very special photographs of me with my parents, perched on a bike, living like a true Dutch person.
Also, there was one time a person threw a brick through the window of the residency, which resulted in my photo being taken for a local Dutch paper. Through that residency, my father met Dutch artists Kinke Kooi and Roland Schimmel, and for my entire life, I’ve been inspired by their work. We’ve exchanged visits between New York and Amsterdam, but sadly, it’s been close to ten years since the last. Kooi’s paintings abstract the body, convey sensuality through simple mark-making and create figuration through the unrecognizable form. These principles that have served as a huge influence on my own practice, so needless to say, I’m excited to return.
Given your recurring imagery, did showing in the city known for it's wild, even raunchy nature, inform the work in any way?
Amsterdam is a special place. It’s unapologetic for its sex-positive industry, rich artistic history and conviction in a good time. I would say, however, that I’ve never produced a series or thought about my work in relation to where it’s shown; it’s always been about my own experiences and my body. A lot of what I tackle is very personal, and while, at times, it can verge on topics of sexuality, I would say it’s more sensual than sexy. Envisioning Amsterdam and its front-facing sexual culture didn’t factor into my process, although I hope the audience is receptive to its themes.
What about Holland's artistic and, especially, painterly tradition. Did that influence the work?
My father introduced me to the Dutch Masters. Through piles and piles of art books, he was constantly showing me how their paintings conveyed light and space beautifully. Their ability to really capture the way morning light hit the plastered walls, trickle-down fabric and pierce through leaded glass astonished me. Masters, like Vermeer, Rembrandt and Pieter De Hooch, informed my own understanding of painting and how it could be manipulated to convey something larger than myself. Even though my own paintings don’t tackle the same subjects, I can feel their presence in how I communicate light on canvas.
Are there any local artists or museums whose work you hope to see during your stay?
I haven’t been to Amsterdam since 2009, so I’m very excited to finally see the Rijksmuseum and all the Dutch Masters I’ve previously mentioned. In addition, I’m looking forward to the Stedelijk Museum as well as the Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the Voorlinden in Wassenaar. I will, of course, also be visiting Kinke Kooi and Roland Schimmel.
Loie Hollowell's One Opening Leads to Another opens at GRIMM Gallery Keizersgracht on November 22, 2019, with an opening reception from 5 to 7 pm, and is on view through January 4, 2020.
All images: Courtesy of the artist, Pace Gallery and GRIMM Amsterdam | New York
Photo credit by Melissa Goodwin