Lonnie Holley

5 July 2024 to 15 September 2024 Camden Art Centre

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A major institutional solo show by American artist and musician, Lonnie Holley

Camden Art Centre is delighted to present the first institutional solo show in London by acclaimed American artist and musician, Lonnie Holley (b. 1950, Birmingham, Alabama). The exhibition will centre new works made during a production residency in the UK earlier this year, alongside previously unseen sculptures made at The Mahler and LeWitt Studios in Spoleto, Italy in 2023, and key pieces made over the last few decades. A new sound installation in the Reading Room will feature unreleased outtakes from recent recording sessions with the artist’s longstanding collaborators and there will be a live concert at Camden Art Centre on 5 July.

Active across more than four decades, Holley is recognised as an important figure in the Black Art tradition from the southern states of America, as well as a significant artist in the mainstream of international twentieth century and contemporary art. He has a visionary capacity to intuit and reveal to others the significance, symbolism and meaning of the overlooked and discarded. Holley finds beauty in what is immediately at hand, compulsively improvising to convey his meaning ‘by any means necessary’ His primary material has been the iconography and cultural refuse of Americana, signifying the failed promise of the American dream. A recent production residency in Suffolk has enabled him to direct this methodology to objects and materials salvaged here in the UK, including brambles and Victorian glass apothecary bottles, bringing new narratives into play. In a monumental new work, Nine Notes, Holley has repurposed components of a pipe organ to commemorate the nine people who died in a church massacre in 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina—an important site for the Black community through the journey of emancipation. 

The show will include a large group of sculptures outlining faces seen in profile, a kind of drawing in space made using twisted wire, a material Holley returns to again and again to signify connection, communication, and networking, as well as danger, containment, and incarceration. These portraits, alongside a new body of large-scale paintings, honour his ancestral lineage, including Yoruba and Native American heritage—the lives that have gone before and that are carried in the artist’s DNA. The faces Holley paints are an homage to those whose identities are unknown, but whose contribution to the progress of humanity and the service of others deserves recognition.

Further Information: Lonnie Holley - Camden Art Centre