Absence | James Holmberg

Absence | James Holmberg

A Performance Art, Painting, and Technology Installation by James Holmberg

Kolman & Pryor Gallery is thrilled to present a performance art, painting, and technology installation by its first Project Space grant recipient, James Holmberg. The Project Space initiative provides Minnesota visual artists with the funds, time, and exhibition space to create a project that significantly advances their careers. Holmberg’s project, Absence, investigates loss, memory, and transformation through a painting process of accumulation and erasure captured with video and experienced via an app, entitled, "Absence Show," which is available in the App Store or on Google Play. The exhibition begins Saturday, September 11, 2021. An artist reception will be held on September 18, from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m., during Northrup King Nights, the Northrup King Building’s quarterly open studio evening. The exhibition closes October 30, 2021.

“The Project Space has given us a new way to be of service to Minnesota artists,” says gallery co-founder Anita Sue Kolman, who launched the program this year with gallery co-founder Patrick Pryor. Adds Pryor, “With his grant, James has sent his artistic practice in a new direction and taken the next step in his artistic evolution.”

Holmberg is well-known as a painter. A long-time artist with Circa Gallery, he also frequently exhibits at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). “The grant has completely given me the freedom to explore some of the conceptual ideas I’ve been grappling with for a long time,” he says.
 

Absence includes six canvases that Holmberg painted, scraped off, washed with mineral spirits, and painted again 12 times, while he was recording the process on video.  The ghost paintings on each of the six canvases can only be viewed by downloading the app, “Absence Show,” via a smartphone or tablet. The app is available on Google Play and in the App Store and serves as the only way to reveal the images attached to each canvas. "Absence Show" retrieves the images that now only exists in the cloud.
 

“In my day job, I co-founded a company to develop digital spaces focused on memory preservation; how can we bridge the analogue and the digital in a dignified way?” Holmberg explains, “This project gave me the opportunity to dovetail my two interests - technology and art.” While the canvases retain the ghostly memories of previous paintings, generating a sense of loss and impermanence with each iteration, they’re also digital assets through which memories remain intact.
 

In part, Holmberg says, “I’m questioning the importance of an image, of a painting, at a time when we’re mostly sharing images via cell phones, which in turn brings up questions about the numbing abundance of imagery.” The work also investigates feelings of creative loss, “which is uncomfortable and challenging for me,” he adds. “The real core of the show is about absence and presence and transition, and the ability to let go.”
 

The exhibition also includes a pedestal on which Holmberg troweled all of the paint or “content” from the canvases. “The pedestal is a collective of all the canvases and paint that was used. It’s a sculpture.”
 

“That’s the Pandora’s box that Project Space allowed me to open up,” he adds. The program awards artists $10,000 and exhibition space to show their projects. “I was able to focus on larger, more conceptual questions such as the importance of the artist’s hand and the changing value of an image.” As Kolman explains: “One reason we decided to give the grants is so the artists don’t have to worry about commercial value, but rather could explore artistically to advance the scale, scope, and aesthetic character of new work.”
 

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Editor's Note: The reception will be taking place during the September Northrup King Nights event. Check out this reception as well as a number of other open studios and receptions in the Northrup King Building.

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