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Opening reception: Friday, February 18, 2 - 7 pm

Andrew Kreps Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of the work of Hollis Sigler at 22 Cortlandt Alley. Including works made between 1981 and 2000, the exhibition is the first of the artist’s work in New York since the 1980s and is organized in collaboration with Steven Scott Gallery, Baltimore.

In the late 1970s, Sigler abandoned photorealism in favor of a naive style, influenced by the unrestrained drawing of her youth, and driven by a desire to shift how narrative was communicated in art. Centered on the experiences of women, Sigler’s works from the early 1980s portrayed domestic scenes set within skewed, nearly theatrical spaces. Figures were often depicted in shadow or absent entirely from Sigler’s compositions, and in their place, opened dressers, strewn items of clothing, and traces of activity would suggest the aftermath of an event. This was often reinforced by the works’ titles and additional text, which adorned the works and their intricate, handmade frames. Sigler viewed the removal of the figure as a way to generate visual tension and further explore more fleeting emotional states, such as passion, romance, desire, as well as anxiety, and fear.

Sigler’s work would undergo another shift in 1985 after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that had also afflicted her mother and grandmother. While Sigler initially kept her diagnosis private, her works became increasingly charged with frenetic brushstrokes and agitated colors. Sigler connected her own fears of impermanence with the natural world, and impending ecological crisis. Tidal waves, earthquakes, and fires created scenes of disequilibrium and imbalance, a world that appeared to be in free fall. 

After her cancer recurred in 1992, the subject of illness became an urgent fixture within Sigler’s work, as she stated that she “had to incorporate the ‘cause’ because as an artist I have an obligation to say something, to be responsible for my community.” Sigler started her series Breast Cancer Journal: Walking with the Ghosts of My Grandmothers that same year, an intensely vulnerable series of works documenting her experience with the illness. Sigler’s emotional cycles were laid bare in the works’ titles, the tones of which ranged from those filled with despair, like I’d Make A Deal With The Devil, 1996 to triumphant, such as I’m Holding Out For Victory, Winning Is My Greatest Desire, 1998. Despite her waning health, Sigler remained resolute, positioning her work not only as a personal catharsis but also as a way to demystify the disease, as she scrawled excerpts from medical journals, news stories, as well as Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals, on the works surfaces and frames. In her final works, Sigler seemed to grapple with her own imminent death, and defying her physical challenges, adopted a monumental scale. In And Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards Men, 2000, curtains in the upper corners open to reveal a scene depicting cars driving through a snowy, nocturnal storm with lit houses in the background. Hovering above the street is a triumphant trophy, glowing in the night, suggesting Sigler achieved the victory she sought. 

Hollis Sigler (b. 1948, Gary, IN, d. 2001, Prairie View, IL) was an artist and educator who lived and worked in Chicago. Sigler earned her Master of Fine Arts from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 1973 and co-founded Artemesia Gallery, a female cooperative gallery in Chicago that same year, and rose to prominence as part of Chicago’s vibrant art scene in the years following. In 1985, Sigler was diagnosed with breast cancer, which after a period of remission, recured in 1992. Sigler’s experience with the illness had a profound impact on her artistic work, leading her to publish her seminal book Breast Cancer Journal in 1999. In 2009, the Rockford Art Museum, Illinois mounted the first posthumous retrospective of Sigler’s work, titled Expect the Unexpected, which traveled to the Chicago Cultural Center in 2010. Other exhibitions of Sigler’s work include Breast Cancer Journal, Rockford College Art Gallery, 1993, traveled to National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1993, and MCA Chicago, 1994. Sigler’s work was included in the 1981 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the 39th Corcoran Biennial, Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, 1985. Additionally, Sigler exhibited with Gladstone Gallery, New York (1986 and 1981), Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago (1998 and 1995), and Steven Scott Gallery, Baltimore (1998, 1996, 1995, 1993, and 1990). Hollis Sigler’s works are held in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Seattle Art Museum, among others.