Critics’ Picks

Loie Hollowell, Full Frontal (In Green), 2016, oil, acrylic medium, and sawdust on linen over panel, 48 x 36".

Loie Hollowell, Full Frontal (In Green), 2016, oil, acrylic medium, and sawdust on linen over panel, 48 x 36".

New York

Loie Hollowell

319 Grand Street
October 27–December 18, 2016

What is the female nude anymore? In Loie Hollowell’s idiom, female orifices are conflated with elements of the natural world: a canyon might be spread legs, or the sun, an anus. Her unflinchingly direct paintings sublimate aspects of the female experience in compositions that are both landscapes and anatomical abstractions, echoing a long tradition of feminist painters who claimed the female body for their gender’s own demesne. Synthesizing Judy Chicago’s hard-edge symbolism, Hilma af Klint’s diagrammatic visual language, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s sense of the iconographic, the fourteen paintings presented in Hollowell’s first exhibition here are powerfully referential of her forebears. Perhaps that’s why the emerging Queens-based artist’s works, despite their electric palette and vivid style, can seem solemn—in 2016, gender politics are still very real, and expressions of female sexuality are endlessly misunderstood and/or maligned.

Hollowell and O’Keeffe, despite appearances, differ considerably. It’s not just that the latter disavowed eroticized readings of her work, but the former points to the sexual subtext of her paintings with titles such as Full Frontal (In Green) and Thick Pound over Green Mound, both 2016. Inspired by tantric painting and other esoteric styles, 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. Unlike many practitioners of the straight male imagination who violently deconstruct and distort the female body (think Picasso, de Kooning, Koons, Currin, and Carroll Dunham), Hollowell suspends body parts not as isolated sexual organs but as elements of a vital and coherent cosmology.