Installation view, ‘All Rendered Truth’ at Camden Art Centre, 5 July/15 September 2024. Photo: Rob Harris
Installation view, ‘All Rendered Truth’ at Camden Art Centre, 5 July/15 September 2024. Photo: Rob Harris
  • Art
  • Camden Arts Centre, Finchley Road
  • Recommended


Lonnie Holley: ‘All Rendered Truth’

4 out of 5 stars
Eddy Frankel

Time Out says

It’s all material to Lonnie Holley, everything. Past traumas, trash found on a creek bed, shared histories, scrap metal, the news, old padlocks. All of it can be twisted into new shapes by him.

Since the 1970s, he’s been at the forefront of a loose movement of Black American artists from the Deep South exploring the legacies of slavery and everyday injustice that shape their society. The recent work here continues his ongoing fascination with imbuing the scraps of life with meaning and narrative. The opening space is filled with rough, rusted assemblages, half-broken sculptures made of found wire, metal, stone, wood. Sometimes the wires are twisted into the shape of faces, but most are just clever visual compositions, like neat little abstract Rauschenbergs or Armans. 

But there’s always meaning there. In the next gallery a little tower of forks padlocked together references Holley’s years of enforced labour as a teen, a tap coming out of a bottle of bolts nods to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Everywhere you look there’s symbolism: gas masks and barbed wire for war, ladders for escape, locks and chains for containment. In the best work, a basketball is constricted and strangled by metal mesh and barbed wire, the perfect embodiment of how Holley can express so much about the Black American experience with such poor materials.

The paintings here are much less good. These compositions made of countless faces in profile just aren’t that attractive, interesting or original.

It’s not that the rest of the work is hugely unique, it definitely has its antecedents, but by digging through the refuse of society, the decaying bones of America, and improvising with it, Holley can tell stories that need telling. He reconstitutes and reconfigures the world around him, and the results feel powerful, necessary and often beautiful.


Camden Arts Centre
Arkwright Road
Tube: Finchley Road/Hampstead

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