Confession: I'm going to rant at you here, about the stunning – no, really: stunning – work Austin artist Adreon Henry's been doing lately. Which you can see during the current West Austin Studio Tour that we've also written about here.
And it's a little weird, this rant, because I usually don't like abstract art, often despise non-representational art.
I mean, don't you?
Bunch of possibly clever patterns or splashes of color on a canvas or a board or whatever, occasionally attractive enough to the hungry human eye, sure – but not like most of it hasn't been done better already. By Pollock (for one) on the action-y and expression-y side, and Mondrian (say) on the geometric-y and compartment-y side, and so on and so on: So many originals from decades past, with an impact like graphic megaton cruise missiles at the time, yes … but the surface of those styles now so often aped by weekend warriors who desperately need to comfort themselves with the thought that they're doing something creative with their lives, bless their little consumer hearts.
(Don't get me started, please, because I can be a real asshole about this. QED.)
Which is why I appreciate so deeply the stuff that this Adreon Henry does – and what, especially, he's been doing recently.
In the first place, the style he's closest to, with some of his works? And it's not derivative from, but rather reminiscent of? If required for description's sake, you might best place his stuff along the Op Art spectrum, in there with Vasarely and that crowd – although Henry's creations don't necessarily attempt to short-circuit your visual cortex – because there's a lot of freaky linear stuff going on, a lot of geometric syncopation blazing from his pieces. Although, part of how it looks? Part of it isn't (precisely) intentional at the start – because part of it comes from the process itself.
Because, for many of his works (his best ones, I'd suggest), Henry paints on large sheets of clear vinyl – well, he paints or he screenprints on those vinyl sheets, or sometimes he wreaks both handpainting and screenprinting on them – and then he slices those sheets into long ribbons. And then, here's the thing, he weaves those ribbons together so they form these shifting, rhythmic patterns of line and color that, whoa, they tend to make a person's eyes light up in appreciation, in sheer aesthetic joy.
Example: Henry's got this one piece on view at his gallery in the Medical Arts complex.
(That's over where Kinko's used to be on the UT campus, across the street from the Red River Cafe. That's 2911 Medical Arts #13, to be precise.)
It's a large three-part piece, what I'm talking about, a triptych called A Universal Truth Found in Arithmetic. And the sections at the ends of this triptych, they're multi-color screenprints on that clear vinyl Henry uses, and these prints look cool enough, like maybe Kraftwerk would've used them for album covers back in the day: Geometric shapes on a blue field, a bit of graphic noise built into the design, and each of the two is a near color-reverse of the other, and they're glossy and attractive in a high-end boutique sort of way.
But the middle section of this triptych? Ah: The artist has pulled subsequent vinyl prints of the two end sections, done his meticulous slicing-and-weaving routine on them, and the result is the part that's in the middle.
Separately, the two sections on the ends are, as I said, pretty cool; and the section in the middle is beyond those, is a gorgeous, graphically dancing shimmer of woven integration just by itself; but all three of the sections displayed together are like: Mind? Blown.
Which I trust is all that needs to be said to send you off to scope Henry's "Resistance Patterns" show during this final weekend of WEST, yes?
Maybe now you're feeling so glad, so grateful, that your reporter Brenner has hipped you to this exhibition of vivid goodness, because somehow(?) Adreon Henry wasn't on your radar before, and maybe you're also a relatively wealthy sumbitch (note: "sumbitch," in this case, being non-gender-specific) … and so you want to, you generous human, buy one of the artist's original pieces to gift him (that is to say: me) with?
In that case, never mind that fine triptych.
There's this other piece of Henry's among the many on display, another masterwork of more subtle colors – olive green, if I'm recalling it correctly, and bits of dull orange – that I covet even more than A Universal Truth Found in Arithmetic. Because it's also, beyond its visual beauty, it's textural in addition to the surface variations created by the weave. Because, for this one, Henry adhered curled bits of string to the working sides of his painted vinyl ribbons. And then he screenprinted on top of those string-embellished and complexly woven strips. And then he sanded the entire surface down by hand – a little more here, a little less there …
And who knows what the hell else the man did to it?
Until the finished object, the whole complex rectangle of it, looks like a panel of wall that's simultaneously from the far future and yet was extracted from the ruins of an ancient temple built to honor some insane alien gods of patternmaking.
You'll probably know it when you see it.
And I'm just sayin', citizen, okay?
I'm just sayin'.
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