A Heart’s Hot Shell
RARE Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of A Heart’s Hot Shell, an exhibition of new paintings by the artist Aaron Holz. The show, which runs from September 8 through October 6, marks Holz’s third solo turn at the gallery.
The title of the exhibition is taken from Chapter 41 of Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick, which references Captain Ahab’s obsessive quest for the great white whale in the following sentence: “He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.” For Holz, a similar desire exists at the threshold of each new work. His search often leads him along unexpected paths, as if he were unconsciously letting the painting direct itself, allowing it to expand and contract, to move back and forth among its divergent layers of gesso, acrylic, oil, and resin so that figures, foreground, background, colors, textures, and space find an equilibrium.
Holz samples imagery of past practitioners such as Goya and Darger and combines it with found contemporary images of wrestlers, sunbathers, floral arrangements, and wooded forests that he subjects to substantial alteration during the painting process. The results are jewel-like works brimming with desire and longing for a world that has been rendered illusory through unusual juxtapositions of subject matter, heightened and saturated colors, and vertiginous spatial arrangements.
That the artist’s paintings suggest an improbable though desirous world is amplified by his process of beginning each work with layers of acrylic applied over a raked gesso ground, which Holz then covers with thin layers of resin to lend a physical depth and luminosity to the surface. The raked ground, visible through the applications of acrylic and resin, acts in some instances as a contour to help build form while in other situations its physicality is in marked contrast to the flat images rendered in oil on top of the resin surface. The diverse nature and utilization of mediums pushes the paintings toward the realm of abstraction, further suggesting an imagined world.
Holz obtained his MFA from the University at Albany, SUNY, in 2001, and has received a number of awards including the Nebraska Arts Council Distinguished Artist Award and the Harold & Esther Edgerton Assistant Professor of Painting Award. He is currently an Associate Professor of Painting at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. In 2010-11, he participated in exhibitions at various venues including the Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, NE; the University Art Museum, Albany, NY; the Rourke Art Museum, Moorhead, MN; and the Museum of Nebraska Art, Kearney, NE.