Los Angeles

Tom Holland

Nicholas Wilder Gallery

Tom Holland’s group of shaped fiberglass paintings at Nicholas Wilder adds one more to the handful of remarkable one-man shows of local art seen here over the past year. Holland is an “important” painter only within limited and self-imposed terms, since he refuses to enter into any collective problem-solving esthetic syndrome. If his art has qualities of crudeness and perishability partly for their own sake, it is not because the artist is Making a Point about these things. What he does purvey in his semi-abstract uses of muddy, pied surfaces and flimsy shapes is that “formal elements” in painting can be abused, corrupted, even ignored—unaffectedly—and a new painterly “structure,” stripped of the familiar conveniences, emerges. The prime metaphor of Holland’s present works, in which surfaces are utterly brittle, derelict, inane—is of a kind of mortification of the flesh (of painting). Holland has abandoned intelligible imagery; now his shapes—tacked together, suspended from horizontal boards against the wall and sometimes extending onto the floor—only suggest common forms in the most ambiguous way. The perverse anthropomorphism which has always characterized his work in the past becomes occasional, appearing most directly in a work which has a fringed, serpentine tail hanging stiffly to the ground. The largest work here is a sort of paradigm of esthetic effrontery. Its main component is a long strip of fiberglass, hung vertically, painted along its center with diagonal cross-hatched strokes of blue and black; near the top are rigid, cropped appendages of the same material, splayed outward and down from the supporting frame. Probably the best works are those which employ skimpier cut-out shapes, tacked together within strip-framed formats and painted in various murky or vulgar hues (I believe he calls these, collectively, the diaper paintings, which gives some clue to their general configuration). What distinguishes Holland’s recent work from run-of-the-mill funk stuff may be chiefly his ability to hide visible stratagem—these paintings are, for lack of a better cliché, just what they are, which is more than one can say for nearly anyone else of this ilk save Bruce Nauman, sometimes.

Jane Livingston