October 12, 2014 - University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) - Joseph Holtzman
October 12, 2014

Joseph Holtzman

Joseph Holtzman, Mary Todd Lincoln, 1880, 2007. Oil on marble, 44 x 35 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Joseph Holtzman / MATRIX 256
October 17–December 21, 2014

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA)
Woo Hon Fai Hall
2626 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94720
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 11am–5pm, 
L@TE Fridays 11am–9pm

T +1 510 642 0808


MATRIX 256 is the first solo museum exhibition by New York-based artist and designer Joseph Holtzman. The artist’s work draws on the history of European painting and 18th- and 19th-century decorative arts, and often alludes to friends, family, historical figures, literary characters, and cultural personalities. This presentation will include ten of the artist’s oil paintings on marble and slate made during the past decade.

Best known as the founding publisher, editor, and designer of the fabled magazine Nest: A Quarterly of Interiors (1997–2004), Holtzman has since dedicated his talents to the practice of painting. Nest was unique and revered in part because Holtzman treated each issue as a remarkable physical object, incorporating shape and texture as well as a highly imaginative approach to pattern and color. This attention to the unique qualities of color and texture extends to his painted works. “I want to get in painting,” Holtzman said recently, “past the graphic image. It’s painting as a sculpture and as an object.”

Holtzman’s practice involves careful layering and scraping off richly colored oil paint on slabs of heavy marble (his favorite surface) and slate. He exploits the transparency of the oil medium and the capacity of marble and other stone surfaces to absorb and reflect light, leading to remarkable chromatic and tonal effects. Nearly all of the works in this exhibition are portraits, though the characters and people depicted in them, including Holtzman’s mother Frieda, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, the composer Steven Sondheim, and the artist’s husband Carl Skoggard, among others, emerge to the artist as a consequence of his process rather than as an original inspiration. Further, characters are evoked less by bodily or facial elements than they are by related symbols and settings. For instance, in Frieda Holtzman, with the Phases of the Moon (2009) he conjures his mother through rich colors, images of spoons, vegetal forms, and other shapes presented in a style inspired by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck’s 15th-century Ghent Altarpiece.

From his embrace of unconventional processes and painting surfaces to his ability to draw from artistic references of the past while conveying experiences and characters personal to him, Holtzman has in a remarkably brief period of time created an exciting and inspiring body of work.

Public program
Artist talk: Joseph Holtzman
October 17, 6:30pm
Artist Joseph Holtzman discusses his strikingly original paintings in this overview of his work.

Joseph Holtzman / MATRIX 256 is organized by Director Lawrence Rinder. It will travel to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in summer 2016. The MATRIX Program is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.

Press contact
Peter Cavagnaro: pcavagnaro [​at​] berkeley.edu


Joseph Holtzman at BAM/PFA
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
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