United by attitude rather than medium or method, Christian Holstad’s work probes received ideas about class, culture, sexuality and society. A keen eye on concepts of high and low informs a body of work that, encompassing sculpture, installation, performance, photography, collage and textiles, is concerned with the construction and manifestation of social and intimate spaces. Holstad's practice has explored domestic and subcultural sites, often exploring and calling into question preconceived notions of identity and desire. His first show in New York was inspired by the story of David Phillip Vetter, the 'boy in the bubble' whose rare genetic immune disorder resulted in having to spend most of his short life in isolation in a plastic bubble. In contrast to the bedroom scene staged for that show, Holstad's 2006 installation Leather Beach included references to S&M clubs, tanning salons, and high-end boutiques.
An interest in the culture of consumerism and the particularities of the contemporary recessionary moment are explored in an ongoing series of soft sculptures works that reference shopping carts. Over the past decade Holstad has examined devotional texts (The Book of Hours, 2013), the various types of borders, boundaries and constraints in our environment that impact our lives, from the political and governmental to the societal and personal (Corrections, 2014) and the visual and emotional encoding and decoding of the domestic sphere versus the external environment. (Toothpick, 2016, at Massimo De Carlo, Milan).
In his ongoing series of Eraserhead drawings the artist selectively erases sections of images cut from newspapers and magazines, transforming their meanings in ways that hint at hidden or subtextual layers beneath the surface of received, media-sanctioned culture.
In 2018, on the occasion of the opening of Swiss Institute’s new home at 38 St Marks Place, New York, work by the artist was among a series of semi-permanent works and installations exhibited in non-gallery spaces of the building. In 2019, the artist presented Consider yourself as a guest (Cornucopia), a site-specific installation inspired by the theme of marine protection from plastic waste pollution, on the Grand Canal, Venice. The work was presented by FTP Industrial at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, situated on the water of the Grand Canal, and in the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice courtyard.
Also in 2019, the artist featured in a group exhibition of ceramic works held at Victoria Miro Venice. Holstad has often examined the conceptual and aesthetic resonance of the vessel as part of a wider enquiry into cycles of consumption and their effects on the world. Many of his recent ceramic works are the result of an extended period living and working in Faenza, Italy, which is home to the historical manufacture of majolica ware known as faience. Working closely with Italian ceramicists, Holstad has developed new ways of working with clay that expand on the techniques – variously American, English and Japanese – to which he was already accustomed. The resulting works, which include masks, bowls, pots, pans and cornucopias, are charged with references to the domestic and pose questions about what or who is being consumed, and by whom.
Christian Holstad was born in Anaheim, California in 1972 and lives and works in New York City. Recent solo exhibitions include Consider Yourself As A Guest (Cornucopia) staged at Artissima, Torino (2020) and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (2019); Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York (2017 and 2013); Massimo De Carlo, Milan (2016); Schmidt & Handrup, Cologne (2016 and 2010); Daniel Reich Gallery, New York (2009–10); Galleria Civica of Modena (2009) and Galleria national d'arte moderna, Rome (2009). The artist presented the multi-disciplinary performance work red, yellow, lime, pink, lavender, green, scarlet, lavender, scarlet, green, lavender as part of The Magazine Sessions 2016 at the Serpentine Galleries, London, and has participated in group exhibitions including OnSite; A semi-permanent installation, Swiss Institute, New York (2018–ongoing); Transitions and Transformations, NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale (2019–2021); A Cool Breeze, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague (2019); Chromaphilia & Chromaphobia, Kansas City Art Institute (2016); Terra Provocata, Fondazione del Monte and Museo Civico Medievale, Bologna (2016); From The Ruins..., 601Artspace, New York (2015); Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art, Hangzhou, China (2013); Paper, Saatchi Gallery, London (2013); Aquatopia, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, touring to Tate St Ives (2013); Graphite, Indianapolis Museum of Art (2013); The Air We Breathe, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2011); Coming After, The Power Plant, Toronto (2011); Compilation IV, Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf (2009) and Compass in Hand: Selections from the Judith Rothschild Collection, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009).
His work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Oslo.