Exhibition: REALTREE®

Tom Holmes REALTREE® September 13 - November 3 2019

Bureau is pleased to announce REALTREE® a solo exhibition by Tom Holmes, their fourth with the gallery. The exhibition features a group of realist oil paintings, some pushing at the seams of the gallery’s walls. A seemingly larger-than-life painting of a chromed El Camino shimmers with the dappled reflections of an Eggo® box painting, and is flanked by two monumental baroque-scale paintings of the heavens. These massive works are complemented by a suite of plaintive still-lives depicting the space of civic grief: temporary memorials. For this exhibition, Holmes spins a pun from the titular camo gear brand, REALTREE®, which can be found in abundance in rural Tennessee, their home of the past ten years. Camo can be used as a kind of cloak of “realness” for precarious radical bodies amidst the conservative norms of the South; though REALTREE® gear conveniently comes in psychedelic pink, for the ladies. The notion of artifice or constructed realness is also at play when describing Holmes’s realist paintings.

Over the years Holmes’s work has focused on sculpture, painting and drawing, marrying the formal concerns of minimalism and the common imagery of pop and mass-market consumables. The sculptures have been constructed from materials as diverse as cases of Mountain Dew, rainbow shoelaces, animal bones and foil-covered bricks. The recent alla prima depictions retain quite a lot of that variety, and echo the delicate flourishes of a perfectly twisted wire or a ribbon draped just so.

The central works in REALTREE® are several monumental oil paintings, the largest pair of which have been constructed to sit in large niches that flank a 17th-century stairwell of the Palazzo Galli Tassi in Florence, where the artist recently completed a residency. Holmes has become adept at realizing baroque grandeur in large-scale paintings, seen in these two irrepressible, atmospheric depictions of the æther. The pair feature a fury of abstract marks, which like figures dotting the celestial realm, dance over sumptuous sunset gradients. Trompe-l’oeil painted ribbons adorn both of these works, offering a through line from the expansive skies beyond, to the grave earthliness of the smaller paintings of makeshift memorials, similarly adorned with femme touches.

These smaller paintings, like much of their recent work, adhere to the golden ratio. As the artist insists, “the works slightly distort perspective to allow intersecting edges and/or lines to snap to a gridded ratio within the illusionist space. There is a real pleasure in the illusion of space and I’m convinced, within it, is a very real potential for an abstract experience.” Holmes further elaborates on these works while also giving context to so much earlier sculpture and painting: “Growing up near the border in the Southwest the first subject I was excited to photograph was the numerous descansos, roadside memorials that punctuated the long drives from place to place. Spontaneous sculptures that sprang up at the site of a fatality. Older ones were often concrete or metal crosses, sometimes bordered by painted rocks, jugs or bricks. The more recent retained their decorations, fake flowers, tinsel, stuffed toys, wired or taped to fence post, road sign. They were, for me, a much needed moment of visual interest, approached and passed with some rapidity, lending the moment to a perpetual state of recent memory. An instance, impossibly brief, too brief to retain the details of its construction. The new paintings of improvised memorials at sites of gun violence rhyme with a similar existential dilemma -public, anonymous, and abused by the elements.”

The other massive new work in REALTREE® is the latest in a series of many El Camino paintings the artist has made over the years. This one is depicted in a corner of minimal architecture – a garage or a gallery perhaps – seen from above and at an angle. The El Camino, a functional conjoining of sedan and pick-up truck, was a ubiquitous sight from a country childhood of the 1980s. For Holmes, however, this car presents a foreboding, fearful image; imagined to function as the poor-man’s hearse. El camino, in Spanish, the way. Here the car’s hood points downwards, while the mirrored surface points skyward into an unseen bravura-brushed space where one of Holmes’s giant Eggo® box paintings reflects from above, envisioned as a baroque ceiling fresco. So while the car leads the way down to the inevitable future, it also conjures an illusion of skyward sublime, here reflected from within the parked car’s imagined hall, shining.

Tom Holmes (b. Ozona, Texas, lives and works in Cannon County and Jackson County, TN) received a BFA from the University of Texas, Austin and an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles. Select solo exhibitions include L’EGGO MY EGGO®, Bureau, New York, 2017; Temporary Monument, Kunsthalle Bern, 2013; Piss Yellow / Bars and Stars, Bureau, New York, 2013; Part of This Complete Breakfast: objects for a wake, Galerie Catherine Bastide, Brussels, 2012; and Painted Bones - some reliquaries, Bureau, New York, 2011. Their work has been included in group exhibitions at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Georgia; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Contemporary Art Biennial, Sélestat, France; Malmö Konstmuseum, Sweden and the Whitney Museum in Altria, New York. Their work is in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Stiftung Kunsthalle Bern, FRAC Bourgogne, and the Tang Museum at Skidmore College.

The artist wishes to extend special gratitude to The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, Numeroventi, Joan Mitchell Center, The Haven Foundation, and CERF+.

Photography by Dario Lasagni.