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Kathleen Holder: New Work
Perimeter Gallery, 210 W. Superior St., Chicago IL, 60610
June 6 - July 12, 2008

These moody pastels are rich with impressions of half-recollected and inexplicable forces. On a broad sheet of richly-colored paper, areas of pastel appear in faint ethereal cloud, their diffusion given a focal point by one, sometimes more, solitary circular daubs or smears. The placement of these suggests lights, moon or man-made, of which the faint pastel diffusion appears to be the merest illuminate vapor. Other rubbed areas hint at water, dimly lit in a dark expanse. Anamnesis, the titling of the series, is a term referring to recollection, particularly from a previous existence. The imagery of subtle, mysterious lights and presumed watery expanses conveys the feel of a world just past the edge of memory.

Katherine R. Lieber, Editor

By Alan G. Artner
Tribune Art Critic
July 11, 2008

"Anamnesis," the title of a new series of pastel drawings by Kathleen Holder at Perimeter Gallery, means reminiscence, which leaves the question of what large-scale abstractions can reminisce about. Here the answer is generally landscape. But there also is something different, more interesting because it's less easily grasped and definable.

All of Holder's pieces are vertically disposed and on sheets of colored papers. In several we discern a horizon line, the suggestion of water and lights in the sky, either in deep space or high in the heavens. The touches by which the artist achieves all of this are minimal. And there is great skill in it, if also, by now, something of monotony.

Alongside the landscapes are, however, other pieces that seem more "about" light. Nothing concrete is represented, though the format is of a partial rectangle positioned within a fuller one, as if a shade were drawn down within a window frame. The partial rectangle appears to block out a smoky or gaseous light, particularly at its lower edge. Such light escapes at the edge as well as through apparent slits. It is as if the artist has presented us with a reminiscence of early-morning fog or mist, conveyed purely, delicately through geometry and light. The best of these pieces are literally wonderful. (To view the artist's images, visit www.perimetergallery.com.)

At 210 W. Superior St. 312-266-9473.

By Alan G. Artner
Tribune art critic
June 10, 2005

The title for Kathleen Holder's exhibition of pastels at the Perimeter Gallery is "Anamnesis," which means remembrance, and it's more relevant to some pieces than others.

Holder's older works are abstractions that contain what may be thought of as vessels of light. Taller than they are wide, the pastel drawings seem to have illumination flowing downward from a burst or sputter until it is concentrated in a U-shaped receptacle near the bottom. The issue of remembrance applies less well here, for the works contain only light--and it's independent of any representational form except the rudimentary, geometric "vessel" that collects it.

In more recent pieces, the artist introduces representational elements that are ambiguous. The forms may be read as stars, rocks, water or artificial lights, though they emerge from Holder's color fields only vaguely and hazily, as they would from, say, a nocturne by J.A.M. Whistler. He was, of course, interested in poeticizing landscape. Holder's aim is different: to create pictorial equivalents for images rising to the surface of human memory.

Both kinds of work are atmospheric and beautifully realized.

However, the newer pieces are richer in association, calling up memories of natural phenomena as well as earlier works of art, specifically from the crepuscular world of Symbolism of more than a century ago.

At 210 W. Superior St. 312-266-9473.

Mind Trips
Kathleen Holder and Meikle Gardner take us there.
Carol Knowles
March 24, 2005

Anamnesis," Kathleen Holder's current show at David Lusk Gallery, is one of the most emotionally powerful exhibitions in Memphis this year. Like luminists' landscapes and particularly Mark Rothko's late paintings, Holder's nuanced and intensely saturated pastels burn with a mystical intensity.

"Anamnesis" means remembering, and her works reflect a calling up of deeply buried memories -- an image or idea that is in the brain but just beyond reach and then spontaneously pops up.

Phrases that sound like poetry -- "I am the house where the moon lives" -- occurred to the artist as her fingers spread particles of bluish and golden-white pastels across fields of carmines, violets, scarlets, and cadmium reds in Anamnesis X.

Faint shards of light inside barely visible receptacles could be dying embers in ancient caves (Anamnesis IV) or slivers of gold in alchemists' cauldrons (Anamnesis XI) or chemical reactions in our bellies (Anamnesis IV) or Holder's memories of purple-pink steam rising from a smoldering house fire (Anamnesis XII).

Her almost imperceptible, softly glowing apexes invoke images of Gothic arches (Anamnesis X); the tips of a pope's or wizard's hat radiating their masters' special powers (Anamnesis IV); or boat bows emerging from moonlit mists (one of Holder's metaphors for accessing alternate states of consciousness).

Flecks of golden-white pastel backed by midnight blues (Anamnesis III) or dark umbers (Anamnesis XII) bring to mind pinpoints of light playing out Bell's theorem about the interconnectedness of particles across vast expanses of space. Like visionary poets and philosophers, Holder intuits that all things arise from common ground. Her art attunes our sensibilities to the point where "unified whole" and "ground of being" are no longer philosophical jargon or tenets of faith but deeply felt experiences. This artist draws us into "the house where the moon lives," where a chorus of memories, dreams, and sensations pool and reconfigure into the most mysterious of all cauldrons -- the human psyche.

Kathleen Holder at David Lusk Gallery through April 2nd

The pastels of Kathleen Holder Reflected hints of landscape
Alan G. Artner, Tribune Art Critic
July 20, 2001

Question: When is a landscape not a landscape?
Answer: When it's a pastel by Kathleen Holder.

Holder's 10 recent pieces at Perimeter Gallery are more like colored monoliths on which are reflected hints of landscape but only incidentally in the course of their brilliant play of light.

Because she has been creating these pastels for a long time, we know that it's the blaze she's after and she hasn't wanted to lose naturalistic associations by making it abstract. So most of the pieces have passages that suggest bits of manmade structures such as pyramids or landscape elements such as water on which light flickers. The marks she makes then convey something more than lines and deeply layered color.

Holder's largest pieces, at 60-by-40 inches, overpower viewers with a sense of natural phenomena, though one is never sure what actually is there. The pieces are rather like mirages representing something we recognize but cannot firmly pin down. They're all shadows and shimmer.

Clearly there's an affinity with contemporary artists such as James Turrell, whose primary concern is light, yet Holder remains her own woman. However many the modern antecedents -- Mark Rothko's canvases, Stephen Antonakos' neon pieces, Robert Irwin's installations -- none took quite the same direction. This is personal work that requires no knowledge of art history. It is engaged with tradition yet stands apart.

At 210 W. Superior St., through Aug. 31. 312-266-9473.

Gallery Glance
Margaret Hawkins
August 24, 2001

Kathleen Holder, Perimeter Gallery, 210 W. Superior, through August 31. These luminous but otherwise spare chalk drawings hint at landscape but mostly just conjure up space and distance. Each seems to have started out as a representation of some place real, a view of water and a shoreline, possibly, but then intensifies into a solid glow of color as it moves toward the top of the page. Here landscape is reduced to its purest elements: pure sky, pure color, pure space and, at the center, pure light. To look at these mimics the meditative experience of staring at water, creating that sense of being transported into a place and then beyond it into pure space.

William T. Henning
Curator of Art
The Arkansas Art Center

One must not look too fast at Holder’s visionary landscapes. At a casual glance they are exceedingly simple and direct. But like entering a darkened room, the eyes need time to adjust. Then the viewer notices surfaces that are rich in nuance, similar to but even more subtle than James McNeill Whistler’s tonalist nocturnes or shoreline studies. One feels in each work spiritual essences waiting to be comprehended. How the viewer submits his or her own temperament, experience, and reservoir of associations to the query of those essences is the mystic adventure.

Alan G. Artner, Art Critic
April 4, 1986

KATHLEEN HOLDER (Perimeter Gallery, 356 W. Huron St.): Here is a spectacular selection of large-scale pastels, some inspired by a religious shrine in Chimayo, New Mexico. The artist conveys spirituality through blazing light that is less a radiation or a reflection than an independent agent with an almost palpable presence. In this some of the work shows a debt to Mark Rothko, but not to worry, Holder’s handling of her medium makes for a tremendous difference.


Pastel is a medium which usually winds up being either washed-out, hyper-delicate, or else an artist will try to use it with some strength and it gets clotted up on the paper, it gets thick and ugly. Nigredo #2 is a completely marvelous treatment of a totally imaginary subject. I just like the way the substance is put on because something is happening there but that area is going off, it’s going off into space and there’s a kind of elation to the whole business…it’s drawn on with very firm, very decisive, and very fluid strokes. I thought actually this was somebody who really knows what pastel is all about, and that it needn’t always be something hazy, or the weakfish kind of medium that it usually is. The only artists I can think of whose pastels I really like are Degas’ and Manet’s and they’re nothing like this—it’s an entirely different approach.

John Canaday
Author, Former Art Critic for the New York Times