Born in 1962, New York-based Holton Rower creates paintings with a simple yet incredibly beautiful process resulting in incredible color combinations that can be stunningly psychedelic and completely hypnotic. Working with a deep understanding of the nature of paint as a physical substance, Rower continues to explore new uses of the medium.
In this video, Holton Rower shows us what he has been working on during the pandemic. The artist explores new mediums, continuing to push his use of vivid color palettes. Rower incorporates strings drenched in paint, buttons sewn on mail sacks, tiny spots of paint, dancers, dice, and shows the process of creating his “Cutaway” and “Pour” paintings.
Rower expresses a fascination with the substance of the various materials he uses, particularly in his “Pour” paintings. With the process as intriguing as the resultant kaleidoscopic canvas, Holton toys with the precarious relationship between artistic manipulation and chance. His abstract creations recall the psychedelic art of the 1960s whilst resembling a fossilized form of acidulous color.
Cup by cup, hundreds of different colors cascade down, determining their own path like a flowing stream of lava. In several of the works, intention dams have been built on the painting’s surface forcing the paint to flow around it. Holton experiments with the forces of nature, letting his artistic process be guided by gravity.
Rower is an inventor and a tinkerer, a constructor and builder more than a painter; and all his works regardless of whether they go on the wall or the floor are most related to sculpture. The “cutaways” series is no exception; Rower has made a sculptural relief of paint, many inches thick, into which he cuts a topography of mounds and shapes. A wall piece may contain over 100 paintings; snippets of text, repeated shapes, and colors. These are all compressed into a three-dimensional “volume” of paintings that are incised. The composition of the final work is thus based on many previous decisions, all buried under layers of paint, re-emerging from selective excavation.
The artist’s expertise in color theory is apparent throughout the video. The string paintings create mounds and valleys like a technicolor moonscape. The lines of dots seem to bend and snake in and out of one another. The artist also cuts and recombines his paintings to create sculptural forms and new iterations of the work.
Evocative of Kandinsky and the effect synesthesia had on his work, the repetition of the various rivers of color within Holton’s art creates an underlying rhythm that pulsates throughout his work. Like a piece of music, his paintings have soft and subtle sections that quietly sing in the background, while louder more aggressive colors jump forward akin to the intense crescendo of musical composition. Juxtaposing earthy hues with bright and almost luminescent colors, Rower’s work is reminiscent of the psychedelic art of the 1960s. SImultaneously calming yet exuberant, one can happily be drawn into the acidulous colors and hypnotic nature of the work.
Rower has shown his paintings in a number of exhibitions including Kunsthaus Oerlikon, Zurich, Switzerland; Galerie Maeght, Paris, France; Cencebaugh Contemporary, New York; Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans; The Hole, New York; and Shizaru, London, England.