by Atim Annette Oton
9 Designers and Artists I Know is a 2014 series of stories of nine designers and artists I know and admire as they navigate their world and produce art and design projects that make me want to work even harder. I repeat, I admire their talent, work and spirit.
Hollis King, photo by Leslie Jean-Bart
I have known Hollis King for about 14 years as a designer and as a friend. We met at an Organization of Black Designers (OBD) Conference in Los Angeles in 2000. As Hollis recalls it, I barged in on a group of designers and him and demanded what they were planning on doing with their free evening. Yes, I did. And it was the beginning of a great friendship and mutual admiration club.
Hollis King, when I met him, was the vice-president and creative director at the Verve Music Group. At Verve, Hollis worked with noted artists such as Natalie Cole, Linda Ronstadt and John Foley, just to name. And about 3 years ago, like everything in the music industry space, was let go after 15 years with the company. It was a shock but in some ways, the beginning of the redefinition of himself, work and craft in a new space: the creation of his company – Hollis King Creative; a place to develop his own ideas, projects and work, hands-on. He has after all five Grammy Nominations.
Hollis and I have been talking and sharing about this change in his life. After years of meeting at OBD conferences and both working in Manhattan; we never seemed to have the time to do lunch and really talk. So, his job change took us one lunch to Tom’s Restaurant on Washington Avenue to catch up. And it was part of the beginning of the new Hollis King that I was privilege to see unfold as his evolving redefinition as an artist, creative and art director, and photographer. Hollis came prepared for the unveiling. He began first to show me his sketches he was doing at Alvin Ailey Dance Studio during the rehearsals and some daily sketches of people on the subway.
Hollis King’s Sketches on the subway and around New York
Hollis also showed me some drawings based on nature and people. These were very delicate sketches.
For Phoenix Rising, an idea I had after my store was in a fire, he crafted a series of 3 drawings as we discussed an exhibition.
Hollis and I continue to meet frequently like most friends do to share news on what each other was working on. The most memorable was a meeting at my store. This time it was for an unveiling of his collages. I was not prepared for them but honored to see them.
He then discussed his new project: August Wilson’s American Century Cycle, and the collages he would be doing for The Green Space. And showed me a few, then looked around the store and picked up button coaster that he added to his sketch below. See more collages here.
Hollis is a natural designer, trained as a graphic designer; he is an idea person, constantly exploring and experimenting with new material and a story teller. He reinterprets ideas on canvas, in photography and was at The Greene Space – his work became a billboard. His next revelation was about his Harlem series which he showcase as part of the Laundromat Project. His series is about images of dignity, decent people and children.
Photos by Hollis King
Hollis is also working with the Coltrane House on fundraising to save the house. Jazz is in his blood and he continues to work on its preservation. His current work launches with new collages on Monday and it is part of Afropop, a film series hosted by Anthony Mackie introducing five major films on PBS, see video. More details can be found at https://www.facebook.com/AfroPoPTV
Hollis King is a working artist, designer and art director conceiving ideas and working. He left Verve and is rebuilding his career, it’s the middle stage of his life. He is drawing, sketching and photographing daily. He is one of the 9 designers and artist I know and admire. I tip my hat to him as the generation after him is still trying to sort it out. The recession was about opportunity, he seizes the opportunity and grows daily. As we talk often, I keep reminding him about his website. And laugh because he is getting more work with out it. His name and brand is solid, so he gets calls often. That’s really what life is about.