The Hole NYC, a gallery that has displayed some of the most exciting contemporary art of recent memory, is up with another great show: an exhibit on the psychedelic “pour paintings” of the New York artist Holton Rower.
Rower douses amorphous pieces of plywood in tremendous quantities of paint that’s often doctored with opalescent admixtures, reflective elements, and cheery sparkles. As the paint flows over the wood–and clumps and fractures and halts against obstacles Rower inserts–it settles into woozy technicolor patterns that call to mind a room full of Grateful Dead tapestries after the fifth button of peyote.
Rower is art-world royalty. Born in the 1960s, he’s the grandson of Alexander Calder, the beloved American artist who invented mobile sculptures. At first glance, Rower’s paintings seem to fit squarely into the tradition of American abstract painting, following in the giant footsteps of Morris Louis, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning.
But, as the curators at The Hole explain, Rower’s work veers from his Color Field and Ab-Ex predecessors in a key way. His process is both “highly premeditated” (he decides what kind of paint to use and where and how to pour it) and “fancifully spontaneous” (he never knows how, exactly, the final piece will turn out). As such, “Rower’s pours come closer to the abstracting nature photos of Edward Weston than to the works of Pollock or de Kooning, painters who, even when most abstract, always left behind traces of the actions of their hands.”
They come close to the spirit of Calder’s work, too. Calder was a resolute tinkerer–an artist who took obvious pleasure in making things, and making them well, from the gentle mobiles he crafted using hunks of sheet metal to the uncannily nimble mini acrobats he sculpted out of wire. The lightness of his touch belied the meticulous engineering that undergird all his art. Rower approaches his paintings in a similar fashion. He has spent the past five years in seclusion developing and perfecting his pours, though you’d never guess it by the freewheeling, almost dippy, look of them. Like pop-pop, he takes playfulness very seriously.
Pour Paintings[/i] runs through May 26.
[Images courtesy of The Hole NYC]