PRIVATE VIEW: Friday 1st August 2014, 7pm
EXHIBITION: Sat 2nd Aug – Sat 23rd Aug, Mon – Sat, 12 – 6pm
Artist Talk: Weds 6th Aug, 7pm
Stephen Holman is a California-based painter, performance artist and animation director. His vibrantly idiosyncratic work bridges the gap between hi-brow and low-brow art, combining bio-science and political satire with slapstick comedy and surreal props such as demon whisks, dancing toilets and cheese propulsion machines. His paintings have been described by Art Issues magazine as “Acid-hued fusions of man and nature, human skeletons in big bird bodies, breakfast table fights with strange aquatic creatures, that reveal nature running entertainingly amok”.
Holman’s multi-media career has included co-founding and directing the genre-defining performance art troupe THEATRE CARNIVALE in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, performing in NYC’s downtown club scene in the early 80s, touring with JAPANESE NOISE and WEST COAST GRUNGE bands in the 90s, designing animation for PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE, and creating and designing stop-motion animation series for NICKELODEON, WARNER BROS and DISNEY. His work has been called “a wildly inventive treat” by the LA TIMES and “performance art at its finest, with the guts to go beyond the boundaries” by the LA WEEKLY.
Holman will be displaying his artwork and showing photos and posters from his performance career, alongside rare flyers and posters from the US 80s/90s underground performance scene. On August 6th he will present a lecture on his work, showing animation excerpts and sharing anecdotes from his 30-year history in the US underground.
Born in Hastings, UK in 1962, Holman relocated to London in 1979, where he studied art at The University of East London and wrote his thesis on pioneer industrial band, Throbbing Gristle. In 1984 he traveled to NYC where, inspired by the explosive, cross-disciplinary ethic of the early 80s downtown art scene, Holman made the decision to transplant his career to the US.
Holman’s early work took the form of experimental films screened at bars and nightclubs. However, the ongoing battle to engage a rowdy club crowd’s attention caused these screenings to quickly expand in scope and complexity to include live performance as well as film. Pushing the concept further, Holman formed his first performance art ensemble, TORTURE CHORUS in 1986, and began staging live shows in seminal NYC venues such as 8BC, The Kitchen, Danceteria and Franklin Furnace.
In 1987 Holman moved to Los Angeles where he co-founded THEATRE CARNIVALE, a neo-vaudevillian performance troupe/venue with a mandate to showcase radical cabaret/club-based performance artists including Johanna Went, John Fleck and the Kipper Kids alongside exotic entertainment such as sword-swallowing strippers, professional magicians et al. Holman and Theatre Carnivale garnered rave press reviews (LA’s Artaud” – Paper Magazine), ruffled the feathers of the cultural elite (“Avant Garbage reeking with cheap jokes, sex and violence!” - LA READER) and succeeded in defining a new genre of west coast performance art.
By the early 1990s Theatre Carnivale had evolved into a vehicle for Holman’s own work: a wild blend of splatter-comedy, childhood imagery, media-kitsch and eco-science involving ensemble casts, live musicians and surreal costumes and props. Highlights from this era included a sensationalized cabaret depicting the lives of the Moors Murderers (in which Myra Hindley was played by the then current Playboy magazine’s Miss September), plus stage collaborations with painter Robert Williams, LA performance diva Johanna Went, painter/performer Joe Coleman, industrial experimentalists Survival Research Laboratories, and seminal 90s bands L7 and Ethyl Meatplow. Throughout the 90s Holman received grants and staged productions in major international venues (including NYC’s Kitchen, the UK’s Channel 4 TV and Tokyo’s International Theater Festival).
Also in the early 90s, Holman started making DOCUMENTARY PAINTINGS after each performance, feeling that a graphic image depicting the concepts, costumes and characters in each of his live shows represented a more personal and in some ways more satisfying alternative to video.
Holman was hired as an animation artist on CBS cult children’s TV series PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE in 1989, and continued success in this field led to him forming, with his wife, artist Josephine Huang in 1993, his own independent animation company (W)HOLESOME PRODUCTS. This partnership went on to create and direct several innovative stop-motion animation TV series including LIFE WITH LOOPY (Nickelodeon/Kablam!), PHANTOM INVESTIGATORS (Sony/Warner Bros) and THE BITE-SIZED ADVENTURES OF SAM SANDWICH (Disney).
Holman’s current work encompasses all three artistic disciplines. Since 2006 he has had six solo painting exhibitions in Southern California (including a career retrospective at TRACK 16 GALLERY in Santa Monica). His favorite themes of eco-science and man’s relationship with nature have been expanded in his latest works to include alchemical and mythological imagery, though these are still combined with his trademark twists of surreal humor. Holman staged his most recent performance work ‘Art is Not a Business’ at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art in May 2014.