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Joseph Holtzman / MATRIX 256

October 17, 2014 - December 21, 2014

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Joseph Holtzman: Mary Todd Lincoln, 1880, 2007; oil on marble; 44 x 35 in.; courtesy of the artist.

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).

Joseph Holtzman’s unusual artistic sensibility evolved from his close study of historical painting and his connoisseurship of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century decorative arts. His themes and motifs draw on these diverse sources as well as allude to family and friends, cultural personalities, historical figures, and literary characters. Balancing his wide-ranging references is an intensely sensual connection to paint and surface.

Holtzman (b. 1957) is highly attentive to the unique qualities of color and texture that can be expressed through the medium of paint on various grounds. His palette is fantastically rich and varied and he achieves remarkable chromatic and tonal effects by exploiting not only the transparency of the oil medium but also the unusual capacity of marble—his favorite surface—to absorb and reflect light. He pays as much attention to the tiniest details of the paintings as he does to their overall compositions. To contemplate Holtzman’s paintings is to become immersed—indeed, nearly lost—in a strange yet beautiful universe.

Many of Holtzman’s paintings are portraits though their subjects may only emerge for him in the process of painting: Frieda (Holtzman’s mother), Monsieur de Charlus (the dissolute aristocrat in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time), Mary Todd Lincoln (“a driven decorator,” according to Holtzman), the composer Stephen Sondheim, and Holtzman’s husband, Carl Skoggard. These subjects are evoked less through accurate depictions of their bodies and faces than through settings and related objects that, like saintly “attributes,” convey symbolic meaning.

Through his highly personal and inventive engagement with painting, Holtzman has invested new life into this versatile medium while nodding to the admired forebears of his, and our, cultural past.


Joseph Holtzman / MATRIX 256 is organized by Director Lawrence Rinder. It will travel to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in summer 2015. The MATRIX Program is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.