RARE is pleased to present America-ecstatic, Nebraska-based artist Aaron Holz’s fourth one-person exhibition at the gallery. In a series of 12 new paintings, Holz explores an ecstatic, often surreal, vision of America as he traces a visual and conceptual path westward by incorporating references to 19th century landmarks, politicians, poets, and visionaries.
During an artist residency in 2012 in Nebraska City, Holz became inspired by the notion that he was living and working at the very beginning of the 2,000-mile long Oregon Trail. He began reading about 19th century America and its obsessive push westward, coming to the realization that most conflicts, difficulties, and national traits that existed then remain imbedded in our society today – manifest destiny, consumption, and race relations, among others. For this artist it seems as though America is still as wonderful, ugly, lovely, and strange as it ever was.
Holz’s paintings investigate this vision of America – of a land historically ingrained with a hyper-energetic, ecstatic sensibility that can border on the surreal. This uniquely American characteristic gave rise to a national identity that began to flower when many Americans heeded 19th century newspaper editor, politician, and reformer Horace Greeley’s dictum: “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.”
Holz emphasizes the ecstatic, sometimes surreal, nature of our national character by exploring the materiality of paint and the psychological space in and around the figures and objects he depicts. The diversity of mediums he employs as well as techniques that include raking, layering, and marbling demonstrate a mimetic relationship between process and content, pushing his work into the realm of abstraction and illusion. The result is paintings brimming with desire and longing for a world that we are loathe to admit still exists – and so the more America changes, the more it remains the same.
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. During 2012-13, he participated in group shows at Beers.Lambert Contemporary in London and The Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln, and was in residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City.