Paulson Fontaine Press
The Ghostness of Blackness
The Ghostness of Blackness
Born in Alabama, Lonnie Holley is the seventh of 27 children. Separated from his family as a baby, Holley’s chaotic childhood forced him to grow up fast, making his own way in the world by pulling a wagon collecting other men’s trash, selling it or repurposing it. Holley is an artist who creates his work from the things he collects everywhere he goes.
The genesis of this group of collages began when Holley noticed a piece of old plywood in the studio during a visit to Paulson Fontaine Press. Lonnie grabbed our jigsaw and started cutting out figures, exposing his predilection for nested and overlapping human forms, chambered nautiluses of ancestry, community, and the promises of a future within the past.
Paul Arnett writes, “Within this process, Holley references his art-making roots: woodblock prints were made from jigsawed plywood forms pieced together into a single wood “plate.” (Holley’s original outdoor art environment, constructed in the 1980s and ’90s in Birmingham, was ringed by cutout wooden forms much like these.) With these understatedly autobiographical prints, he has reimagined a staple of yard art—the plywood cutout—as the basis for a distinctly fine-art medium—the print—while referencing an ancient civilization that existed (like American music) at the boundary of Europe and Africa.”
Working proofs from the previous woodblock project were saved knowing Holley advocates reuse, and during two sessions in residence he created magnificent collages of cut up prints, papers, and spray-paint. The collages are the largest two-dimensional works the artist has produced and mark a significant addition to his oeuvre.
I started turning over the stones, broken glass, the leaves, the broken branches. Everything that would flow down those ditches, down those creeks ... I had learned to do work ... I was learning to look in those bags and unravel that wrinkled paper, or seeing the condition and the deterioration of what the rain washed off and put against a fence that had begun to rot away. I examined those conditions. I can only say that I was an artist as a child. I didn’t know the word “art,” didn’t know how to spell “art.” I didn’t know how to spell “sculpture.” Sculpture wasn’t a part of what Negros knew to proclaim.
Lonnie Holley, interview in The Bitter Southerner | One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Salvation
Lonnie Holley is an internationally renowned artist and performer whose three-decade-long career has encompassed drawing, painting, sculpture, and music. Holley’s paintings, found-object sculptures and environments are made of both natural and manmade elements. The densely constructed pieces reference current events and African American history and, like his musical lyrics, refer to slavery, the church, and universal ecology. Holley’s work is included in numerous museum collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia Museum of Art; New Orleans Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, among others. He is represented by the James Fuentes Gallery, New York.
Recent interviews and Articles:
Apollo Magazine | The truth is contagious- an interview with Lonnie Holley
New Yorker | Lonnie Holley’s Glorious Improvisations
The Guardian | Twenty-six siblings and a child Labour camp: how Lonnie Holley’s epic life led to the year’s best album
The Bitter Southerner | One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Salvation
Afropunk | The Art of trauma: Lonnie Holley’s Modern Folklore