Robin Holder’s solo exhibition at ArtRage wraps up a busy year in which she showed her work at the LaGrange Art Museum, LaGrange, GA, and held a virtual exhibition at the Lutheran University of California. These exhibits highlighted a distinctive visual idiom that combines painting, drawing, printmaking and digital manipulation of images. And she continues to explore notions of identity, culture, and social and economic justice.
The ArtRage show is based on two series: “USA: The United States of Anxiety” and “COVID 19. First Responders: We’re In It Together. Both sets of works feature large prints, reflect contemporary life and communicate Incumbentworries about the way people are treated.
In “The United States of Anxiety,” each engraving depicts a tilted, warped, broken house. Beyond that, an image of a face is superimposed on each facade. The portraits feature pensive, worried, tired subjects. Still, there are many faces as Holder challenges viewers to consider the implications of the home not just as a place to stay, but as the foundation for family life and personal growth.
Indeed, in his artist statement, Holder says that “Ideally, HOME is where traditions, rituals and protocols are taught and shared, where identity is learned. HOME responds to our essential need to belong, to be nourished and recognized.
On the other hand, the structures seen in his engravings speak of a different reality. Today, there is a shortage of affordable mortgages, thousands of abandoned homes in Baltimore and other cities, and an alarming increase in the number of people living on American streets. Tent cities exist not only in Seattle and Los Angeles, but also in Atlanta and Denver.
Holder started the series over a decade ago when she photographed abandoned houses in Detroit. However, this is not a job related only to an earlier era. The ArtRage exhibition presents a few prints made during the years 2017 and 2018. In addition, the series raises still relevant questions such as inadequate wages and the fragmentation of families and neighborhoods.
“COVID 19. First Responders: We’re In It Together”, meanwhile, dives into life during the pandemic, dealing specifically with a truck driver, supermarket clerk and respiratory therapist, among others. . Holder does not represent the truck driver behind the wheel of a large platform or the clerk filling the shelves. It is not pure and simple figurative work.
Instead, prints again use layering and collage techniques. Thus, we see the face and the right arm of the driver, but another face is required on his chest. Likewise, the print titled “Respiratory Therapist” mixes up three faces, one with a protective headgear, and shows a stethoscope draped over the therapist’s neck.
In this series, Holder celebrates first responders and highlights how people, even in a society of over 300 million people, depend on each other. For her, first responders include nursing home staff and farm workers, chicken processing plant workers and others. Additionally, she comments that many first responders, especially immigrants and people of color, receive inadequate wages and benefits.
By realizing the impressions of first responders, Holder created visually dynamic work. In “Truck Driver”, an intense blue color sweeps over the print. “X-Ray Technician” marks with a cloudy background and a skillful layering of faces.
Finally, by including pieces from two series by Holder, the exhibition offers a nice introduction to his work. Because the prints are large, only 12 of them are on display at ArtRage. It’s not a huge exhibit, but it samples Holder’s artwork and gives a good idea of his creative direction.
Holder, it should be noted, worked full time as an artist for over 30 years. His other series include “Access and Inequities”, “Falling Figures” and “Behind Each Window: A Voice”. In this latest project, she interviewed immigrants living in her Bronx neighborhood, using this material as the foundation of the series.
Beyond that, she made various site-specific pieces, such as stained glass windows at Connecticut Juvenile Training School, Middletown, Connecticut, and Garfield Elementary School, Olympia, Washington. She also did an installation at the New York City Flushing Avenue subway station on the BMT Jamaica line.
The ArtRage exhibition is on display until January 15, 2022 at the gallery, 505 Hawley Ave. ArtRage is open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. For more information call 315-218-5711 or access www.artragegallery.org.
Carl Mellor covered visual arts for the Syracuse New Times from 1994 to 2019. He continues to write about exhibitions and artists in the Syracuse area.