EVAN HOLLOWAY | The Vernacular of Batteries and Bodybuilders
“Sometimes people ask me about drawing. There’s no point in working this out in a drawing.”
“I’ve wanted to do work with bodybuilders for a long time...because of that relationship between body and scale,” artist Evan Holloway replies when I ask him about his current obsessions. It makes sense, once you think about it. Bodybuilders are the sculptors of the fitness world, their masterpieces emerging from the raw material of their bodies after years of steadfast, meticulous chiseling. The walking marble statues hanging around Venice Beach turn out to have a lot in common with the practice of the Los Angeles artist.
The body doesn’t always appear in Holloway’s sculptures, but the body is always a part of his art, from the artistic process to the work’s engagement with the viewer. After I arrive at his North Hollywood studio, we walk around one of his works-in-progress. As of now, it’s a looming monster, covered in wax. It looks like a melting giant. Still, its structure is viable and strong, and it prompts a primal bodily response. On the concave side, it draws you inwards, and I can feel the wax layers without touching the sculpture. The other side is convex and draws your eye around and up to the peak.
“Sometimes people ask me about drawing. There’s no point in working this out in a drawing,” Holloway says. He explains that his works are inherently three-dimensional and rooted in a reality that can’t exist on paper. Instead, he “draws” these large works with his body. To start the structure of these 7-9 foot tall works, Holloway bends steel rods and solders them together, “roughing out what feels good based upon its body relationships.” By using his own body in the process, he creates works that then have an effect on the movement or reaction of the viewer’s body.
For Holloway, the human mind is a part of the reactive body. Although he makes his work so that the viewer has a physical reaction, via movement or a sense of the tactile, he also deals in “found objects:” recognizable pieces of the world we inhabit. His sculptures communicate on the level of common human experience rather than language. “The way the work impacts the person” comes from what Holloway calls a “vernacular.” “I work from the assumption that the audience will have a reaction, and that’s how I wind up in the vernacular.” His colloquial vocabulary of found-object vernacular consists of batteries (as in 2014’s “Figure Form with Batteries,” carnivalesque imagery, cartoonish mannequin heads (2018’s “Abstraction”), and totemic sculptures of animals and humans. While we talk about some of these, I notice a print out of a still from the Simpsons: the eponymous family walks through what appears to be a modern art museum. And how do we know that it is indeed a modern art museum without any other context? Holloway explains that the visual presence of the “loop sculpture” keys us in. Many of Holloway’s sculptures, like “Recumbent Form with Incense” (2017), riff on ubiquitous form of the “loop sculpture” as a cultural, cognitive “found object.” His art gains a psychological familiarity from this constant referentiality.
This vernacular results in part from a belief that we as humans have universal “equipment.” Our viewing tools are generally the same, and so are the mental faculties behind the senses. Holloway wants to work with this underlying commonality. This focus on relating to human bodies, past present and future, also gets at a newly important aspect of Holloway’s work: time. The batteries he uses have spent their functional life but continue to exist as “polluting objects” in the world and in his sculpture. By using such found objects and beginning to let weather act as it will upon his durable works, Holloway is rejecting the long-running obsession with preservation and indelibility in art.
Rather than creating works that require lots of care long term, Holloway now wants to “put personal resources into the works so they demand less in the future.” In this sense, his upcoming works will take on the universal human experience of aging. Like a bodybuilder’s pecs after months of cutting and building, the works take time to develop. But, just as a bodybuilder who has achieved his ambition can’t stem off the inevitable degradations of aging, they will regress from their peak form. Holloway finds the beauty in that regression. He’s letting one cement sculpture sit outside his studio, studying the effects of oxidation, temperature, and weather on the piece. By “launching art into time,” Holloway challenges the preoccupation with new, temporal entities made popular by modernism and post-modernism.
Although his new works will be exhibited inside at David Kordansky in the coming months, Holloway is picturing his sculptures in the outdoors, weathering cold, heat, and sun. In this sense, his new works are gaining a larger scale and lifespan than ever before, and their physical aging contributes to their reflexive reference to the duration of artworks. “I’m developing earlier ideas in a larger scale, and outdoor setting,” he explains. In this way, Holloway can challenge the restrictive aspects of the “newly minted and absurd default of modern white-cube galleries,” while still utilizing the space for unencumbered experience of his works’ form and effects.
Holloway will be featured at David Kordansky Gallery in January, where he is represented. Between now and then, more volumetric, large works will emerge and age. But as Holloway says, photographs won’t do them justice: let your body experience the works in person.