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Media Contact: Peter Cavagnaro, pcavagnaro@berkeley.edu, (510) 642-0365

Joseph Holtzman / MATRIX 256 (October 17–December 21, 2014)

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

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Berkeley, CA, September 8, 2014 — The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) presents MATRIX 256, the first solo museum exhibition by New York–based artist and designer Joseph Holtzman. The artist’s work draws on European painting and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century decorative arts, and often alludes to friends, family, historical figures, literary characters, and cultural personalities. This presentation will include ten of the artist’s oil paintings on marble or slate made during the past decade.

Best known as the founding publisher, editor, and designer of the fabled magazine Nest: A Quarterly of Interiors (1997–2004), Holtzman has since dedicated his talents to the practice of painting. Nest was unique and revered partly because Holtzman treated each new issue as a remarkable physical object of its own, incorporating shape and texture as well as a highly imaginative approach to pattern and color. This attention to the unique qualities of color and texture extends to his painted works. “I want to get in painting,” Holtzman said recently, “past the graphic image. It’s painting as a sculpture and as an object.”

Holtzman’s practice involves careful layering and scraping off of richly colored oil paint on slabs of heavy marble (his favorite surface) and slate. He exploits the transparency of the oil medium and the capacity of marble and other stone surfaces to absorb and reflect light, leading to remarkable chromatic and tonal effects. Nearly all of the works in this exhibition are portraits, though the characters and people depicted in them, including Holtzman’s mother Frieda, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, the composer Steven Sondheim, and the artist’s husband Carl Skoggard, among others, emerge to the artist as a consequence of his process rather than as an original inspiration. Further, characters are evoked less by bodily or facial elements than they are by related symbols and settings. For instance, in Frieda Holtzman, with the Phases of the Moon (2009) he conjures his mother through rich colors, images of spoons, vegetal forms, and other shapes presented in a style inspired by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck’s fifteenth-century Ghent Altarpiece.

From his embrace of unconventional processes and painting surfaces to his ability to draw from artistic references of the past while conveying experiences and characters personal to him, Holtzman has in a remarkably brief period of time created an exciting and formidable body of work.

Public Program
Artist Talk: Joseph Holtzman
October 17, 2014; 6:30 p.m.
Artist Joseph Holtzman discusses his strikingly original paintings in this overview of his work.

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.

The MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art introduces the Bay Area community to exceptional work being made internationally, nationally, and locally, creating a rich connection to the current dialogues on contemporary art and demonstrating that the art of this moment is vital, dynamic, and often challenging. Confronting traditional practices of display and encouraging new, open modes of analysis, MATRIX provides an experimental framework for an active interchange between the artist, the museum, and the viewer. Since the program's inception in 1978, MATRIX has featured artists such as John Baldessari, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, Nan Goldin, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Shirin Neshat, Nancy Spero, and Andy Warhol, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Peter Doig, Omer Fast, Tobias Rehberger, Ernesto Neto, Rosalind Nashashibi, Tomás Saraceno, Mario Garcia Torres, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, representing countries as diverse as Finland, Germany, Iran, Ivory Coast, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Thailand, and Brazil.

Founded in 1963, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is UC Berkeley’s primary visual arts venue and among the largest university art museums in terms of size and audience in the United States. Internationally recognized for its art and film programming, BAM/PFA is a platform for cultural experiences that transform individuals, engage communities, and advance the local, national, and global discourse on art and ideas. BAM/PFA’s mission is “to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film.”

BAM/PFA presents approximately twenty art exhibitions and 380 film programs each year. The museum’s collection of over 19,000 works of art includes important holdings of Neolithic Chinese ceramics, Ming and Qing Dynasty Chinese painting, Old Master works on paper, Italian Baroque painting, early American painting, Abstract Expressionist painting, contemporary photography, and video art. Its film archive contains over 16,000 films and videos, including the largest collection of Japanese cinema outside of Japan, Hollywood classics, and silent film, as well hundreds of thousands of articles, reviews, posters, and other ephemera related to the history of film, many of which are digitally scanned and accessible online.

Museum Information
2626 Bancroft Way, just below College Avenue across from the UC Berkeley campus.

Gallery and Museum Store Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Open L@TE Fridays until 9 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Information: 24-hour recorded message (510) 642-0808; fax (510) 642-4889; TDD (510) 642-8734.

Website: bampfa.berkeley.edu