Holly Tempo’s latest exhibition Of Unknown Value highlights quality of life issues and the growing disparity between communities, especially in the urban landscape of Los Angeles
Tempo finds inspiration throughout the many areas of L.A., especially amidst the abundance of graffiti, discarded furniture and other refuse, visually expressed as abstracted forms of spray paint drips, graffiti marks, abatement gestures, gang colors, and the ever-shifting line as defined by buildings, power-lines, fences, or even states of mind while traversing the cityscape. Tints and shades of blue, red and black also indicate gang affiliations and the cultural community they occupy. A recurrent element in Tempo’s painting, the ubiquitous “X” alludes to several concepts – an allusion to the tag over a rival’s tag, or the cipher of illiterate slaves. The “X” is also an algebraic symbol that is used as a stand-in for an unknown value or quantity in an equation; hence, the exhibition title. Of Unknown Value is not only a pun based on a visual motif in the work, but is also a lament for lives consumed by violence and a concern for the unknown future.
Tempo’s canvases also juxtapose these symbols of adversity with symbols of increasing gentrification. Los Angeles is a city filled with contradictions where blight and prosperity butt against each other with distressing regularity and urgency. Accompanied by the beautifully maintained yards, lovely bungalows, quality restaurants, kids playing, trees and birds are the numerous “Sold” signs, multi-million dollar development projects and increasing backlash on social media. Tempo challenges the “what ifs” of a person’s potential against the backdrop of street crime and community violence, and examines the cultural history, psychological trauma, and social anger by wedding aspects of the formal language of paintings with tropes from urban environments.
Loren Holland’s new series of paintings and drawings entitled Bittersweet Harmony finds inspiration in mythology, gothic literature, music and the coded mysteries of the occult, juxtaposed with contemporary and pop culture. With an emphasis on the dramatic and a hint of the macabre, this series exudes the vivid imagery and twisted plot lines of 19th century gothic fiction and horror. Central concepts include beauty, vulnerability, exposure, misconception, transformation, growth, decay, duality and balance. Incorporating metaphysical and alchemical symbolism, Holland subverts media stereotypes about the relationships between women and men of color— whose typical interactions are perceived as dysfunctional or violent. Whether traditional, passionate, innocent, symbiotic or antagonistic, these relationships are as diverse and complex as the people who comprise them.
Set against the picturesque backdrops of darkly silhouetted woods, murky lily pad swamps and misty meadows, this series also challenges the belief that women of color are not typically associated with “Classical” beauty and are instead identified with the "exotic", the sexually deviant or "otherness". Additionally, Holland re-examines essential depictions of men of color. Frequently represented as hideous or sub-human, men of color are routinely portrayed by the media as innately savage, animalistic, destructive and criminal. Using symbolic associations, the works also focus on the lack of control people of color have over their own social representation, as well as the potential lack of control of their physical bodies due to low societal status, institutional racism and negative cultural perceptions.