Sculptor and Choreographer Fred Holland Dies at 65

The artist's last show is on view at Tilton Gallery.

Fred Holland. Photo: Tom Brazil, courtesy Tilton Gallery.

New York-based sculptor and choreographer Fred Holland died of colon cancer Saturday evening, March 5. The artist’s passing comes on the heels of the opening of his current exhibition at Tilton Gallery, titled “Fred Holland: SSAPMOC.”

The show, on view February 25–April 9, 2016, is the artists’s second with Tilton, where he’s been showing since his debut in 2009. Due to his illness, Holland was unable to attend the opening in person, but called in during the event via FaceTime.

“Holland’s amazing spirit is in all these works, clear, poetic and profound, with a playful sense of discovery,” the gallery states of the exhibition, which features sculptures crafted from materials such as bricks, glass, plaster, and pillows.

Fred Holland, <em>Beacon</em> (2015). Pillows, steel, fabric, wood, glass, and plaster (detail).<br>Photo: courtesy Tilton Gallery.

Fred Holland, Beacon (2015). Pillows, steel, fabric, wood, glass, and plaster (detail).
Photo: courtesy Tilton Gallery.

Born in 1951, Holland studied Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio but worked primarily in dance, performing with such figures as Meredith Monk until 1992, when an injury prompted his return to visual art. He has been included in group shows at institutions including MoMA PS1 in Queens, the Newark Museum, the Drawing Center in New York, and the Albany Art Museum.

“Most of my work has to do with, I would say, memory and narrative,” Holland explained to artist Patricia Goodrich for “Voices Underground” a 2003 museum and oral history project that brought together work from 27 artists at Europos Parkas, Lithuania. “I like using organic material, wood. I like using found material. I use teeth in my sculptures. I use pennies. But mostly, I think, I believe in a sense of things being passed on.”

That unorthodox mix of materials was what drew Holland Cotter, writing for the New York Times, to Holland’s first solo exhibition, held in 1999 at Harlem’s Gallery X. “A good, spare show with materials that seem unpromising when read on a checklist but really work,” Cotter opined. “The message seems to be that we take our history with us if we choose to, wherever we go.”

Fred Holland (1988). Photo: Peggy Jarrell Kaplan, courtesy Tilton Gallery.

Fred Holland (1988).
Photo: Peggy Jarrell Kaplan, courtesy Tilton Gallery.

It was that positive review that opened doors for Holland, who had been working on the side as a line cook at the Monkey Bar and Vongs Restaurant at the time. In 2009, he was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. “I can’t begin to speak on how it has affected my work and me, only that I continue to work with plans for an exhibition at Jack Tilton Gallery [in] early 2016,” wrote Holland in a biography for the gallery. 

Among Holland’s numerous accomplishments are a Creative Capital Award (2000); grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2010 and 2004) and National Endowment for the Arts (1986, 1988, 1989, and 1992); and residencies at Cite International des Arts Paris sponsored by Foundation de France (2007) and the Art Omi International Artists Colony Residency.

Fred Holland: SSAPMOC” is on view at Tilton Gallery in New York February 25– April 9, 2016.

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