Contributed by Riad Miah / Dennis Hollingsworth’s exhibition “Burgeoning,” the artist’s first solo show at Gallery Richard on the Lower East Side, comprises conventional paintings from as early as 2014 and newer ones that move decisively into three dimensions. Without adding solvents, Hollingsworth massages paint from the tube to a creamy consistency and then applies it with custom-made tools. It is squeegeed, dragged, flung, and sculpted. The paint coalesces into forms that look like spores, starbursts, and other organic entities. He uses stencils to create leaf-like shapes, stripe patterns, and letters that sometimes become words. The paint is so thick that some canvases – for instance, Minerva’s Serpents and Limitlessness and Strange Design – employ supports and structures to accommodate the paint, and thus suggest low-relief sculpture. The newer pieces bring to mind other artists whose work also investigates the structure and support, including Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, Elizabeth Murray, Ron Gorchov, James Hyde, Rosy Keyser, and Fabian Marcaccio.
According to the press release, in the 1990s Hollingsworth was deeply engaged in the “painting is dead” conversation, which today seems every bit as overwrought as it generally was. Nevertheless, Hollingsworth still takes his mission to be figuring out what painting is and what it can be, searching by way of images, object, and text. A good example is Tear It Wide Open. The painting is shaped like a cartoon rendering of a head with ears that jut out at the left and right sides of the picture, reminiscent of Homer Simpson, Charlie Brown, or Tin-Tin. The painted passages resemble an aerial highway, and the piece incorporates an eye exuding feathers simulated from canvas. Perhaps Hollingsworth is suggesting that the painting is capable of flight or vision.
His new work involves letters and text, sometimes intelligible and sometimes not. In a fairly clear nod to Mel Bochner’s paintings, Hollingsworth’s textual pieces allude to the process of creating art but also contradict the materiality of painting. He also goes a step farther, literally stretching language. In So That We Can See, the surface of the painting is pushed out of the two-dimensional plane of the canvas, distorting words and phrases nearly to the point of incomprehensibility. The net effect is that the work’s verbal and visual components compete with one another, barring the emergence of a clear hierarchy and affording the work a kind of unstable dynamism. This is adventurous art, and far from dead.
“Dennis Hollingsworth: Burgeoning,” Galerie Richard, LES, New York, NY. Through March 9, 2019.
About the Author: Artist and educator Riad Miah was born in Trinidad and Tobago and now lives and works in New York City. He has exhibited with Lesley Heller Workspace, Rooster Gallery, and Sperone Westwater Gallery, among others.