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  • Writer's pictureEric Holzman – Spring 2005 by David Cohen

"All art is at once surface and symbol," Oscar Wilde warned in the preface to Dorian Gray. In Eric Holzman's mesmerizing but enigmatic exhibition at Jason McCoy you penetrate either at your peril. The artist has given this show, his third at the gallery, the fey, wistful title, "The Sky Is Crying," which is also used for several paintings. His favorite motif is the nebulous space between clusters of trees.

Quoting Wilde seems apt in Mr. Holzman's case, as he seems at first like a symbolist who has accidentally strayed into the wrong century. It is as if he were Gustave Moreau trying his hand at abstract expressionism. The paintings have a scale, decenteredness, and fascination with spatial ambiguity that makes them contemporary, but the tone, touch, and mood are very much "fin d'un autre siècle." The charcoal grid still visible in his large painting compositions recalls the functionality of Old Master drawings, but also gives his endeavor a 1970s serial edge.

Mr. Holzman's beautiful paint handling is a kind of fool's gold. He enjoys the swirling arabesque sensations to be found in van Gogh but replaces that artist's compelling gestalt and dynamic color with a twee tonality and distended alloverness. Mr. Holzman's palette, at once earthy and ethereal, has a warmth that puts you in a nostalgic mood. His impasto, in which tumult is depleted of angst, belies a rococo sensibility.

Yet there is much more to these strangely compelling images than retro whimsicality. There is an element of a lament for painting that recalls the more gutsy but similarly elegiac French artist, Gerard Garouste. The big, washed-out landscapes in the back room look like Correggio drawings that have been left out in the rain.

There's a scene in a Fellini movie where visitors to the Catacombs chance upon long lost Roman murals that disappear the instant they are unveiled. In similar fashion, Mr. Holzman revels in the sensation of chancing upon a long-lost masterpiece at the frustrating yet exquisite moment of dissipation.

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