Tom Hollenback

About Tom Hollenback

Like the best artists of any era, Tom Hollenback creates art that subtly transforms the perceptions of the viewer. His sculpture, no matter where it is installed, immediately defines and underscores the space it inhabits, thus changing the experience of being in that situation. By means of edge and angle, translucency and reflection, boundary and interface, Hollenback somehow bends the surroundings to the authority of his sculpture. The artist has devised an alternative means of orientation, a navigational device for today’s electronic environment.

Hollenback accomplishes this sleight-of-hand through the most economical of means, keeping his forms elemental and his concepts straightforward. He frequently combines steel with sheets of fluorescent acrylic to illuminate his art. The glowing edges of the acrylic seem to buzz and crackle like neon, but in fact their only power source is the track lights of the gallery. Even under more dimly lit circumstances, the sculptures project a subtle energy that envelops the room. The pieces are frequently juxtaposed with large white spaces to create afterimages of the bright acrylic.

When Hollenback moves his acrylic pieces off the wall and into the center of the room, wrapping them around themselves to form enclosures, many complex and interesting ideas come pouring out of them. Inclusion and exclusion come into play when some people are inside the structure and some are outside. The interior space can become a stage, and the people outside become an audience. Some even have cell phone conversations while thus separated, and these interactions then become an integral facet of the work of art. When one person is alone with the piece, its architecture seems to come to the fore. Mental associations with cloisters, cells, or cubicles are contradicted by the transparency of the medium, generating thoughts about what we can see through and what we can see reflected in other things. Extraneous details are pared away to condense and define a response to urban experiences.

Hollenback has a history of experimentation with three-dimensional concepts. Through the years, he has fabricated freestanding outdoor sculptures as well as more intimately scaled objects. More recently, he has constructed drywall installations that created alternative realities by deliberately distorting spatial conventions to create irrational yet meditative enclosures. He is interested in the phenomenological aspect of perception, which basically concerns the idea of the eye as a camera. This optic process generates visual memory through image averaging, which provides continuity. Hollenback’s art addresses the complicated nature of focus by presenting the eye with conundrums.

Increasingly, Hollenback gravitates toward the allure of transparency and the opportunity to work with light. He gives concrete form to everyone’s most abstractly intuitive experience of the contemporary technological world in his transparent sculptures. Like bits and pieces of cyberspace, they materialize and dematerialize provocatively. Their brilliant edges are expansive rather than limiting; their interface with the environment is a line of demarcation that celebrates the freedom of intellectual inquiry.

Suzanne Deats