Wed 6 Sep 2023 to Sat 28 Oct 2023
Artist: Loie Hollowell
Pace presents The Third Stage, a solo exhibition of new work by American painter, Loie Hollowell.
Marking the artist’s first exhibition in Switzerland, Hollowell will present a suite of paintings from her Split Orb series. Titled after the last phase of labour, this show is the final instalment in a three-part series that began in spring 2021. Following her solo exhibition at the Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai (2021), this exhibition comes at a pivotal moment in Hollowell’s career as she prepares for her first museum survey at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, opening January 2024.
Hollowell’s biomorphic abstract work explores themes of sex, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and motherhood. Her idiosyncratic Split Orb series bridges abstraction and self-portraiture, using striking, geometric compositions to vividly capture the female body and its transformations during childbirth. Hollowell’s velvet-textured application of paint, alternating between soft colours and hard-edged forms, creates a pulsating effect, as if the otherworldly orbs are radiating light across the canvas. She incorporates protruding, spherical forms onto the paintings’ surface, which are then bifurcated in a visceral depiction of childbirth. The two orbs, one above the other, represent the head and brain, and the pregnant stomach and cervix. In this way, her work gives form to the all-consuming process of labour, mimicking the rhythm of contractions as the orbs split open at varying intervals of degrees to represent the centimetres of dilation.
Since the birth of her own children in 2018 and 2020, Hollowell’s work has become increasingly self-referential; she abstractly dissects the female body, enraptured by its capacity to grow life, to split open and rebuild in the wake of such change. Incorporating sculptural elements that protrude from the canvas, Hollowell’s paintings recall the swell of a pregnant body. Indeed, the scale of the paintings align to the scale of the viewers’ body as viewers are invited to physically move around the works in order to discern their three-dimensionality.
Concluding a trio of exhibitions highlighting Hollowell’s distinctive Split Orbs, The Third Stage follows Sacred Contract in 2021 and Contractions in 2022. This final presentation meditates on the period of time between the baby’s arrival and the delivery of the placenta, when mother and baby become two separate beings. These works have been made not only in the wake of Hollowell’s own journey into motherhood, but also amidst the increasingly restrictive laws on reproductive healthcare following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the US. In this context, these paintings can be understood as both personal reflections on the artist’s own emotional and bodily experience, as well as broader, universal evocations of the often stigmatised and suppressed reality of giving birth.
This latest exhibition comes after Hollowell’s first-ever NFT project, also titled Contractions, which launched in October 2022. The series comprised 280 unique, generative NFTs made with Pace Verso—the gallery’s web3 hub—and Art Blocks, with 25 percent of net proceeds from the sales donated to Midwest Access Coalition and ARC-Southeast, two organisations that provide funding and logistical support to individuals seeking reproductive care, including abortion services. The project allowed for Hollowell to further explore her colour palette, presenting new ways for the artist to delve deeper into this series in the digital realm. Each of the six new paintings in The Third Stage are inspired by one of the NFTs originally minted in the Contractions project.