Those who aren’t as familiar with the ancient Levant as contemporary sculptor Evan Holloway is, might understand the title of his current exhibition at Xavier Hufkens—“Evan Holloway: California Ras Shamra”—as a send-up of California’s New Age culture. They would be right, but there are other layers here, too. In this new body of mixed-media sculptures, with their pared-down forms and humble materials, the artist merges references to the history, geography, and culture of both California and the ancient Phoenician city of Ugarit, also called Ras Shamra, to explore the continuities and differences between them. The result is a heady brew of ancient and contemporary, local and global, humorous and serious, in works that read as beguiling, hard-to-place artifacts.
As it turns out, California is home to a movement inspired by Ugaritic culture and belief systems, not to mention its assortment of local New Age spiritual groups that draw upon ancient religions. It is also home to the well-known, 10,000-year-old La Brea Tar Pits, from which bitumen still seeps. These facts feed into Holloway’s view of life as trans-historical, and of the world as interconnected, which, in turn, feed into his art.
Among the more overtly recognizable pieces in the exhibition is Red Rider (2014). It is composed of a stack of black and red glazed earthenware in cubic and rectangular shapes, topped by a small statue of a horse and rider. It looks like something that might be found preserved behind glass among other ancient artifacts, but its form seems slightly off, and it appears too intact, too fresh, too unmarked by time. Other works, like Cart with Batteries #1 (2013) and Head (2014), are more obviously off-kilter. In the former work, an ancient-looking cart holds a phallic plaster form stuck all over with spent batteries. In the latter, a white plaster orb impaled on a steel pole also bristles with batteries, inserted into it like the nails hammered into African religious statuary. These, perhaps, are artifacts of our own time, resonant with links to history and other cultures, and with the damaging detritus of modern consumerism run amok.