Loie Hollowell - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Friday, October 6, 2023 | Phillips
  • Pulsating with light, colour and form, Loie Hollowell’s unique and vibrant explorations of human sensuality have cemented her place as one of the most sensational artists in the contemporary art scene today. Fiercely vulnerable, Hollowell’s allusions to the female body are often autobiographical, based upon blueprints of her own embodied experience. Scaled in accordance with the artist’s body parts, these renderings of voluptuous, biomorphic forms protrude into the viewer’s space with a curious sense of three-dimensionality, bearing a resemblance to motifs in science fiction. Intimate yet universal, they traverse the boundaries between painting and sculpture, constantly interchanging within her investigation of themes of sexuality, pregnancy, and birth.


    “Beauty for me is not just visual, it is also experiential. I want the viewer to come away not necessarily knowing what I was trying to tell them about, say, my birth experience, but absorbing an impression of brightness or richness or radiance that has something to do with their relationship to their own body.”
    — Loie Hollowell



    The Body as Landscape


    Detail of the present lot

    Figurative and abstract at once, Clouds, Cactus and Sun comes from a sensual group of works, presented as part of Hollowell’s second-ever solo exhibition at Feuer/Mesler in 2016. Titled Mother Tongue, they collectively explore the duality of pictorial language between figure and landscape through the introduction of ambiguity and metamorphosing forms. A literal representation of its title, the current work features two pastel purple clouds resting on both sides of the canvas as a blazing sun rises above the cactus. Bizarre and arousing, upon prolonged observation, the composition could be understood as sexually-explicit elements of the human anatomy – a sunrise over mountains and canyons, it is simultaneously reminiscent of a figure’s backside and her legs spread, evoking a mysterious sexuality that leaves viewers transfixed to its surface.


    “[…] as I make the paintings, I’m not just working over a flat image, I’m actually dealing with depth and space and reality and thinking about real light versus illusionary light. I really put a lot of myself into it in that way, both physically and emotionally. I’m basically turning these paintings into bodies. They’re like rectangular human manifestations of a specific time and place, or a specific emotional space. I guess, in that way, that could also be seen as some kind of spiritual journey; like communing with the painting.“
    — Loie Hollowell

    When sculpting her creations, Hollowell plays with volume, texture, and surface in the molding of subtle layered structures that can easily escape the detection of the human eye. Using high density foam to build up flat canvases with protruding and concaving forms, it is then sealed with a thin shell of acrylic before being covered by oil paint via different tools. A kitchen sponge results in a stippled surface, whereas delicate soft swirls of the brush cheekily suggest body hair. The result is a lack of distinction between real and constructed depth that is almost indiscernible to the eye, blurring the boundaries between the flat plane and the three-dimensional.



    I See the Light

    A native Northern Californian, Hollowell cites the state’s flooding light as a source of inspiration, often referring to it as the main protagonist in her work. She was particularly influenced by the Light and Space movement, a group of artists in the 1960s who tapped into the potential of Californian landscape and its fiery sunshine. ‘I realised that the light source was different here—it’s a very dappled light on the East Coast,' Hollowell explains. 'In California it is oppressive and aggressive and white. With Robert Irwin specifically, I really resonate with his disc pieces that have a line in the middle— they really capture the potency of the Californian light.’ i


    Robert Irwin, Untitled, 1968,
    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
    Image: © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © 2023 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    In Untitled (1968), American installation artist Robert Irwin challenges the viewer’s perception of light and physical space by depicting a softly lit ball of light that casts a cloverleaf pattern of shadow. Similarly devoted to the exploration of light and shadow, Hollowell employs precisely-planned shading, surrounding the cactus in the present lot with soft white paint and slowly gradates towards varying degrees of yellow hues. Like a glowing ring of ethereal light, it further echoes the central sphere and its association with the sun. A literal representation of luminosity, the artist enhances the overall contrast of colour by choosing gradation over monochrome tones. She explains:


    “I think yellow is often the color I find the most forgiving, and also the most specific in its representation of light. It’s just a very direct representation of light. […] It’s forgiving but it’s also challenging to start with a bright yellow and turn it into a deep color, because it can just get browned out and muddied. So I was really trying to play with how yellow would descend to orange and then descend to a burnt sienna and then let it go all the way to black.”
    — Loie Hollowell

    Judy Chicago, Through the Flower, 1973
    Collection of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York
    Artwork: © 2023 Judy Chicago / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Referencing notions of sex and femininity through abstract, elegant shapes, Hollowell places herself within the art historical lineage of artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Judy Chicago. Considered as the foremothers of the feminist art movement, they too shared a fascination in the use of colour and geometry, employing symmetrical, hypnotic patterns with contrasting colours in their powerful celebrations of womanhood. Notably, Clouds, Cactus and Sun is comparable with Chicago’s 1973 work Through the Flower, which features a radiating female sexual organ akin to a beaming sun framed within optically illusive lines of light and shadow.

    Inheriting the same visual lexicon from her predecessors, Hollowell highlights the illusion of space through her adept use of colour and three-dimensional elements, moving past the constraints of painting into the sphere of sculpture. Intended as a personal exploration of the bodily landscape, Clouds, Cactus and Sun elevates flat geometric expression with autobiographical analogies of the physical and psychological. Embracing formal and symbolic ambiguity at once, Hollowell’s works are a stellar example of technical prowess and a deeper probe into female sexuality - visceral, honest, and seductive.



    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 quickly 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.

    • Most recently, the artist held her first US solo museum exhibition at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art in Davis, titled Loie Hollowell: Tick Tock Belly Clock, which ran from 25 September 2022 to 8 May 2023. 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 Oliver Giles, ‘Artist Loie Hollowell On How Motherhood Inspired Her Paintings, Tatler Asia, 14 April 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

      Feuer/Mesler, New York
      Private Collection, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Feuer/Mesler, Loie Hollowell: Mother Tongue, 27 October - 18 December 2016


Clouds, Cactus and Sun

signed and dated 'Loie Hollowell 2016' on the overlap; further signed, titled and dated '"Clouds, Cactus and Sun" 2016 "Clouds, Cactus and Sun" Loie Hollowell Loie Hollowell' on the reverse
oil, acrylic, and sawdust on linen mounted on panel
122 x 91.5 cm. (48 x 36 in.)
Executed in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

HK$3,000,000 - 4,000,000 

Sold for HK$2,540,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 6 October 2023