Loie Hollowell - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Thursday, December 1, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Oscillating between abstraction and figuration, Loie Hollowell’s unique portraits of the bodily landscapes are characterised by her use of brightly contrasting colours and voluptuous geometric forms. A recurring theme for the artist, Hollowell’s sculptural paintings are autobiographical. Elevating flat geometric expression with autobiographical analogies of the physical and psychological, Hollowell’s creations are visceral, honest, and seductive.
    “I’m a body that is pregnant, but isn’t necessarily the woman or the pregnant body that society may put onto me. I’m experiencing pleasure and pain that anyone can experience, and that’s what I’m putting into the work.”
    — Loie Hollowell
    Created after the artist’s second pregnancy, Split Orbs in gray-brown, yellow, purple and carmine visually abstracts the physical pain of labour. The orbs seem to pulsate with palpable rhythm as they expand and quiver under the blunt force of a sharp cut down the midline, presenting to us an almost psychedelic and transcendental viewing experience.



    Meditations on Childbirth


    Utilising colour, line and form, Hollowell mediates on the carnal process of childbirth, creating canvases that share resemblances with the pregnant female body. A part of a nine-canvas series that directly references the birth of her second child, Hollowell’s Spilt Orbs canvases are a journey into the epicentre of pain. This series, including the current work, was exhibited at König Galerie, Berlin in Loie Hollowell: Sacred Contract in 2021. 



    Left: Installation view of the current work (right) at 
    Berlin, König Galerie, Loie Hollowell: Sacred Contract, 28 April - 13 June 2021

    Right: Full view of the exhibition

    © Loie Hollowell - Photo: Roman März
    Courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE


    Hung in order, the centre spilt of the orb increases from one inch to ten inches across nine canvases, representing the dilation process during labour. As these forms crack apart along their centre lines, the colours radiating from the orbs fluctuates between light and dark, saturated and muted, mimicking the shifts in consciousness during this painful process:

    ‘Giving birth feels like an explosion. To me, it felt like the earth was shattering and I imagined that my screams could be heard from ten houses away. When I looked at the footage my husband had taken, however, I was surprised to see how still I was. As my cervix opened the contractions became more intense; my conscious mind was unable to process the pain. I turned completely inward and the outside world vanished. Thus in the paintings that depict these moments I used muted tones like mauves and beiges for the orb’s radiations.’
    — Loie Hollowell

    The artist labours arduously over the surface with delicate brushstrokes, carefully creating both smooth velvety textures and stippled rough spots in the core of the painting. Representing Hollowell’s own shifting consciousness during labour, these dualities of light and dark, rough and smooth correspond to periods of relaxation and contraction: ‘I took deep breaths and zoned out; the white lines in my paintings refer to those moments of relief. [...] These moments of climactic pain are hard to put into words or depict visually, but it feels like leaving one version of yourself behind and moving toward another.’ i



    Optical Illusions

    ‘I’m interested in the blurring of painting and sculpture, enhancing the actual light and shadow created by the orbs with painted light and shadow. The nave space, with its skylight, is a perfect setup to experience this mixing of reality and illusion.’
    — Loie Hollowell 
    At first glance, works such as Split Orbs in gray-brown, yellow, purple and carmine appear to be flat, yet it incorporates subtle three-dimensional structures that escapes the detection of the human eye. As explained by Hollowell above, the nave space of Berlin König Galerie is crucial to the Spilt Orbs series as she plays with the differences between natural and constructed light, real and fake shadow. Enhancing the contrasts on her canvases, protruding and concaving forms are constructed by building upon flat linen covered panels with high-density foam. This is then sealed with a thin shell of acrylic before being covered by oil paint, achieving a perfectly smooth surface. The end result is an almost optical illusionary effect, with the foreground and background being indiscernible to the eye. 



    Three-dimensional detail of the present lot


    Bearing resemblance to planets, portals of futuristic monoliths in science fiction, these illusionistic contours breathe off the canvas, seemingly advancing and receding in front of the viewer. Colours shift gradually from light to dark, so that the eye spends time trying to understand what it sees – what is nearer and what is farther, what is flat and what isn’t. 


    Biomorphic Abstraction

    “I realised the abstraction can hold within it that sensation or that emotion by its colour, its composition, its texture.”
    — Loie Hollowell
    In dialogue with diverse art historical traditions in abstraction, Hollowell gestures towards artists such as Hilma af Klimt, Georgia O’Keeffe and Judy Chicago. Celebrated for their role was foremothers of the feminist art movement, O’Keeffe and Chicago challenged the male dominated art world. Like Hollowell, both these artists share a fascination in the use of colour and geometry, delving into the realm of pure abstraction with references to the human body.



    Left: Georgia O’Keeffe, Abstraction Blue, 1927
    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
    Image: © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence
    Artwork: © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Right: Judy Chicago, Through the Flower, 1973
    Collection of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York
    Artwork: © 2022 Judy Chicago / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    O’Keeffe’s Abstraction Blue (1927) features a growing gap down the centre of the canvas – unmistakable in its compositional similarities with Hollowell’s Spilt Orbs works. Notably, Split Orbs in gray-brown, yellow, purple and carmine also share the same hypnotic visual quality with Chicago’s iconic Through the Flower (1973). Presenting the viewer with a radiating female sexual organ, lines of light and shadow emit from the centre like the beaming sun. Meticulously rendered, Through the Flower showcases a use of colour and shape that is similar to that of Hollowell’s, where gradients and patterns are repeated, framing the central circular forms. Inheriting the same visual lexicon from her predecessors, Hollowell differs from O’Keeffe and Chicago in her use of three-dimensional elements that plays tricks with the eye, creating radiant, showstopping works that are uniquely her own. 



    Collector’s Digest 


    Born 1983 in California, Loie Hollowell lives and works in New York. Known for her oeuvre that transforms the female nude into abstraction, Hollowell quickly rose to global prominence after being discovered by Marc Glimcher, president of PACE Gallery, who praised her as a ‘truly rare talent’ii. PACE quicily held several solo exhibitions for Hollowell, including PACE London in 2018; PACE Hong Kong in 2018; PACE New York in 2019; and PACE online in 2020.


    Last year, the artist held a solo exhibition at the Long Museum in Shanghai, titled Loie Hollowell: Recalibrate, which ran from 24 April – 11 July 2021. The artist is represented by PACE Gallery and Jessica Silverman Gallery; her first solo show with Jessica Silverman will be in 2024 in San Francisco.


    Hollowell’s works are in the collections of Arts Council England, London (UK); He Art Museum, Shunde (CN); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (US); Long Museum, Shanghai (CN); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (US); Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern (CH), amongst others. 




    i Loie Hollowell, quoted in Osman Can Yerebakan, ‘Loie Hollowell on painting, pain, and her second birth’, Artforum, 26 May 2021, online
    ii Marc Glimcher, quoted in Nate Freeman, ‘How Newly Minted Art Market Star Loie Hollowell’s Prices Rose More Than 1,200 Percent in Just Three Years’, Artnet News, 15 September 2019, online

    • Provenance

      PACE Gallery, New York
      König Galerie, Berlin
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Berlin, König Galerie, Loie Hollowell: Sacred Contract, 28 April - 13 June 2021


Split Orbs in gray-brown, yellow, purple and carmine

signed, titled and dated 'Loie Hollowell 2021 "Spilt orbs in gray-brown, yellow, purple and carmine" Loie Hollowell 2021' on the reverse
oil, acrylic and high-density foam on linen mounted on panel
122.5 x 91.8 cm. (48 1/4 x 36 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2021.

Full Cataloguing

HK$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for HK$12,350,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 1 December 2022