By Blair LeBlanc
Making a name for himself in Atlanta in the , Clovice Holt has returned to the art world with a new satanic twist. Born in California, Holt moved to Stone Mountain, Georgia at age 10. He then studied photography at Georgia State University and moved to New York City in 2016 after graduating. The photographer turned sculptor was an inaugural member of The LOW , the once hot bed of experimental art in Atlanta.
Building his reputation with a series of abject photography, we find Holt’s diabolical interest pulled into three dimensions. A devilish character that can only be described as cute, was hung upside down BDSM style in the middle of the exhibition space. Despite the familiar devil traits (red body, horns) – Holt approaches the emblematic figure of evil with playful humor. His Lucifer, 2021 is not out to end the world, but to be the life of the party.
The two person exhibition, with artist Jason Blue Lake Medicine Eagle Martinez, was on view at Haul Gallery in Brooklyn, New York February 20th to March 21st, 2021.
What is your origin story? What first made you fall in love with being an artist?
Growing up in SoCal, I went on all of these great field trips. We would go to museums, look at art, go to the Anacapa Islands on boats, and have these amazing experiences. When I moved to Stone Mountain, Georgia at age 10, I noticed an immediate decline in the curriculum in regard to cultural experiences for kids. Luckily, we had a great music teacher, Mr. Leonard, who convinced me start playing viola which I continued throughout high school. Orchestra is very disciplinary and communal which are two traits that I am constantly looking to improve. I think the desire to make was always kind of there.
Your early work at The LOW Museum reminds me of the grunge, nostalgic, “documentary” photography that came from artists who broke out in the 90’s like Ryan McGinley and Sally Mann. What influence, if any, has the MTV Generation had on your practice?
Ren and Stimpy, Quiznos commercials, Kablam; late night cartoons were like LSD to me as a kid and so much of that work was abject. I will never forget the single close-up frames of Ren and Stimpy’s noses where you can see oozing pores and hairs. Or the naked devil from Cow and Chicken with a bare ass that 9-year-old me loved to look at.
Photographers, like Mann and McGinley, have these archives of work. That was something I was never good at. I studied photography, but taking pictures was not my favorite thing to do. Compositing, editing, and using scanners were interesting to me. Photography seemed the most related to technology, which drew me to it. Looking back, the 90’s were amazing because there was hope for this cool, kitsch, Zenon space age future. Now that it is 2021 and we see the emperor has no clothes, there is again, this feeling of hope for something new.
And which art movements are you inspired by? How does your artistic practice link with art history?
I took a Baroque art history class that was inspiring. The art market, the idea of artist as producer, and art as commodity are always going to be topics in our field. In my practice, think a lot about Bruce Nauman’s video piece Good Boy Bad Boy as well as Omer Fast’s Talk Show. These video pieces deal with language, repetition, and essentially portraiture. Tony Oursler’s work as well. There are huge themes of repetition in my work. God bless ubuweb.
How do you approach your exhibitions? What do you prioritize, and how has that changed since you moved from Atlanta to New York City?
In Atlanta, I had the wonderful opportunity of interning at the Atlanta Contemporary as well as working with The LOW Museum. The infrastructure of networking and opportunities to show work were already there. New York proved to be a very different beast, and as someone who was lacking social circles in the big city, I took time to brew ideas and plant some roots in Brooklyn. I have met some great artists that have showed me community in ways that I am not even sure they fully understand have affected me. Dana Robinson for example spotlighted my work on @fieldprojects Instagram page. Max Lee and Erin Davis chose me for a 2 person show at Haul Gallery in Brooklyn after I tagged them in an Instagram post (so wild).
I am working on new projects and finally have the money to print off previous work that I have been waiting to showcase. I am aiming for high production value, larger sizes, and pieces that just have a certain gravity to them. Making and storing large works is its own struggle in NYC but the result is so satisfying.
What do you hope your work contributes to the world?
The older I get the more confused about life, purpose, and the esoteric nature of things I get. I am queer, Black, and Mexican-American and I like to make things. My work deals with pain, trauma, failure and the alternatives. I want to make work that stops a person and asks them to feel. Whether it is a scan of my dead kitten, a sculpture of sad Satan, or a zine about my ex, I like working with cheesy themes like romance and death. Romance and death consistently pop up in my work because, really, what else is there to think about? I want more contemplation, a slower pace, more breathing room for the world.
Why do you think artists should make art in 2021?
There is so much to say and reflect on. Equally, there is so much to mute. I feel like many of us are waiting for time to pass this year. The energy has been sapped. If art-making is good for you, then make it. If brainstorming ideas is good for you, do it. If taking a break is good for you, do it. There are no rules anymore. Just all of us trying to get to the next checkpoint.
Blair LeBlanc (b. Atlanta, GA 1994) is an American artist living between New York City and Atlanta, Georgia. Her first solo painting exhibition (September – October 2020. Athens, GA) marked both her transition from photography and her homecoming from a year living in New York City. Recently, her photography landed in international press including Artforum and ARTnews in January 2020. Her next exhibition opens at Guggenheim fellow Craig Drennen’s The End, in 2022.