Aaron Holz culls imagery from popular culture to create small-scale paintings on panel. He appropriates online video and stills using word searches such as injured, drunk or fight, scavenging through these disposable images to find moments that seem more revealing or powerful than originally intended. For his second solo exhibition at RARE entitled External Unconscious, Holz has focused exclusively on image searches related to wrestling, emphasizing its brutal, erotic, and perverse nature.
Judging from the proliferation of various forms of wrestling that can be found on the web – from Turkish oil wrestling to backyard wrestling to Jell-O wrestling – it seems that the world’s oldest sport is alive and well, and stands as a reflection or symptom of our brutalized culture. The original snapshot or video of a wrestling “event” usually is taken for a laugh, self-aggrandizement, or promotion. Holz, a former wrestler himself, will turn a blurry video still from YouTube or a pixilated image from MySpace into cultural commentary by extracting it from its context, saturating it, and layering it with a wealth of detail. His process of utilizing images from authentic situations adds an element of credibility and immediacy to scenarios that otherwise would be absent had he employed models.
The ground for each painting is made with a thick layer of acrylic gesso that has been “combed” and subsequently painted in with various colors. Holz then paints on a layer of smooth clear resin that has been poured over the textured ground and allowed to dry. In the finished painting, his figures seem to float above (or recede behind) a background of colors and patterns, which gives rise to an unusual optical effect where the actual depth of the surface of the work interferes with the eye’s ability to see illusory depth in the painted figures. This effect is compounded by the fact that the combed or raked ground often substitutes for or obliterates pictorial components that appear in the foreground, thereby abstracting them and further challenging the eye to make sense of the artist’s use of pictorial space. Holz’s combining of abstracted and hyper-realistic elements leads viewers to question whether what they are seeing is reality or fantasy, or both.