Bay Area veteran Tom Holland turns up with a substantial show of some 20 large abstract paintings. In characteristic fashion, some hang on the wall while others in plexiglass and aluminum formats are bent into three dimensions and stand about, looking very much like sculpture. An impressive job called “Mann” hangs from the ceiling like a giant mobile. We think of Frank Stella as the artist who exploded painting into 3-D but --if memory serves--Holland was there first, grommeting away.
Although lacking the high profile reputation of some of his peers, Holland is an established talent who pursues his star steadily if sometimes unevenly. The look of present work is slightly troubled and Neo-Expressionist. Formats incline to dark, fuming Cubist envelopes shot through with wedges and shafts of limpid color applied with frustrated tenacity. Their scrubby appearance is the natural result of forcing paint onto resistant metal and plastic surfaces.
If these works could be played on a musical instrument, it would have to be an organ with rich bass sonorities and flute-y high notes. The paintings are big and Baroque, but if they have a theme it might be “What ever happened to the good old days?” A painting on an oval format ruminates on the great moment of Analytic Cubism in Paris. There are whiffs of Delaunay’s Orphism in Holland’s symphonic color and of Constructivism in the way he puts it all together.
Thoughts of his own salad days in the ‘60s recall an artist like Ron Davis. Mostly, however, the brooding, nostalgic character of the work ties Holland to his own Bay Area tradition, its beginnings in visiting Abstract Expressionists and its culmination in Richard Diebenkorn. To his credit, Holland rarely lapses into eccentricity but fights the good fight for Serious Painting. As it has been making a comeback of late, he seems to be winning. (James Corcoran Gallery, 1327 5th St., to April 15.)