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  • Writer's pictureEric Holzman

The New York Observer – Eric Holzman's 
Crying Sky Channels the Old Masters by Mario Naves

In the Rushes, 1999-2004, 48x70

Sometimes scale is everything. Three years ago, the Tibor de Nagy Gallery exhibited a group of small paintings by Eric Holzman, moody deliberations on the conventions of Renaissance art. Currently, the Jason McCoy Gallery is showing recent landscapes by Mr. Holzman that now find him pursuing the same tangent-except for one thing: The paintings are big.

Mr. Holzman's investment in surface, in creating a fine and nubbly patina, is paramount to his ambition of tapping into the authority of the Old Masters he so clearly loves. Moving deliberately, Mr. Holzman's brush is motivated by tradition-burdened by it, too. Within the confines of a small canvas (there are examples at McCoy), the touch feels hemmed in and succumbs to a fussy nostalgia. When painting upon a large expanse of canvas, Mr. Holzman's approach is made vital and vigorous. Having to step back from the canvas while working provides for the artist a critical distance that does wonders for the paintings. Suddenly Mr. Holzman's art is less a reliquary to Western civilization than a world given air, space and light.

Just barely, though. A negotiation between illusion and material is part and parcel of the painter's craft. Mr. Holzman brings to this endeavor an intensity all his own. Though claiming to have realist aspirations, he's equivocal about images. Trees, figures and "a girl watching a duck take flight" are engulfed rather than delineated by scrabbled arabesques of oil paint. The upshot of this emphatic physicality, oddly enough, is weightless, ephemeral. The paintings are elusive and a bit frustrating-like memories you can't quite get a hold of.

But that's all to the good: Better Mr. Holzman giving grit and body to fleeting sensations than falling victim to a self-consciousness that is his greatest liability. He doesn't altogether avoid it here: The gridded charcoal lines flitting underneath the paint is an affectation-indeed, a distraction-that should be jettisoned ASAP. On the whole, however, Mr. Holzman's love affair with art and culture continues to salutary effect.

Eric Holzman: The Sky Is Crying is at Jason McCoy Inc., 41 East 57th Street, until Aug. 27.

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