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Frank Holliday's first solo show in an Italian museum on view at Museo Carlo Bilotti
Frank Holliday.

ROME.- Museo Carlo Bilotti recently opened the Frank Holliday in Rome exhibition, curated by Cesare Biasini Selvaggi.

Another exhibition on a similar theme, Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983, closed at MoMA in New York in April 2018. Held in collaboration with the Keith Haring Foundation, this exhibition is the largest ever show devoted entirely to the historic East Village club, who helped give legendary status to the New York counterculture in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The show took great care to outline the art scene of the period by including works by Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Adolfo Sanchez and Frank Holliday.

A little over a year later, Frank Holliday makes his first appearance in an Italian museum with his solo show held at Museo Carlo Bilotti, which displays 36 works, all created in 2016 during what the artist himself describes as his “monastic” Roman retreat. Indeed, throughout the summer of 2016, Holliday worked with speed and uncommon concentration in his studio near Piazza Navona – the works of the Italian Grand Masters all around him for inspiration, especially those of Caravaggio.

As the artist says in his interview with Anney Bonney, filmed by Eric Marciano, he would paint in the morning and at lunchtime he would go and look at a painting by Caravaggio. It was particularly exciting for him to step into the peaceful calm of the Cappella Contarelli, which was more or less the same size as his Roman studio. He would stand in front of the series of St Matthew paintings and let their power wash over him; then he would go back to his work in the studio. Looking at the artworks in Italy, Frank Holliday has discovered there are three “zones”: heaven, which is usually bright, airy and weightless – something we can’t have but which we can have an idea about. Then there’s earth and then hell. And hell is the force of gravity, always reaching up trying to pull us down, with us stuck in the middle. The artist looked carefully at how Bernini dealt with gravity in his work. His brilliance can be seen in the way one senses the pull of the weight of the earth and the quest of the spiritual in the stone.

In his “Roman cycle” paintings, Frank Holliday has relentlessly explored precisely this intermediate space between heaven and hell, the middle area, as the show’s curator, Cesare Biasini Selvaggi, points out. His great skill lies in giving a visual aspect to something completely immaterial, in other words painting reality in its unreality, seeking the hereafter in this world and this world in thinking about the hereafter. The beauty of the paint counterbalances the vigor of the brushstrokes, in a sequence of paradoxes where light and shadows, descents and ascents, absences and presences become inseparable.

An exhibition catalogue has been published by Carlo Cambi Editore, with commentary by Cesare Biasini Selvaggi, Carter Ratcliff and an interview with Anney Bonney, as well as a critical anthology, biographical notes and bibliography.

Frank Holliday was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1957, and after completing his studies at San Francisco Art Institute and at New York Studio School, he settled in New York, where he became associated with the East Village and Club 57 scene, achieving fame in the early 1980s.

At the beginning of his career he worked in close contact with Andy Warhol and other artists such as Keith Haring, Ann Magnuson and Kenny Scharf, exhibiting at the Kenny Schacter Gallery, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Debs & Co., Tom Cugliani Gallery, The Kitchen, Dru Artstark and GAL Gallery.

His works can be found in several leading collections in the United States, Europe, Japan, Australia and Mexico, in spaces like the Weatherspoon Museum at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, the Frederick Russe Museum in Stockholm (Sweden), the Miniature Museum in Amsterdam (Holland), the MoMA and the DIA Art Foundation in New York.

Frank Holliday has been a recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1986), the Gottlieb Foundation Fellowship (2010), the Pollock Krasner Foundation Fellowship (2010), as well as being awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2015).

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