STUDIO VISIT: JACK HENRY
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Jack Henry at his studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Jack’s work, which includes both mixed-media sculpture and ink drawing, appropriates the physical debris of consumer culture in an effort to find aesthetic possibilities in a landscape overrun with material waste. He’s spoken elsewhere of his interest in Wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic centered around recognizing the sublime beauty of an object in its natural state of decay. Through his work, Jack applies this idea to the post-industrial world itself, and although there is certainly an element of cynicism to what he’s doing - his artist statement speaks of “cultural disaffection” and “our failed but once successful modern society” - it is (crucially) offset by the sheer exuberance and beauty of the resulting objects.
The process behind his signature “Core Sample” sculptures begins with building a vertical mold out of plywood and plastic, which he then uses to cast a variety of collected objects (found either randomly on the street or in 99 cent stores) in layers of dyed resin and cement. The resulting assemblages are colorful, chaotic, and intricately-textured, resembling geographic core samples from an urban landfill and calling to mind artists ranging from Robert Rauschenberg to contemporaries like Richard Hughes and Jonathan Mess.
My visit to his studio was well-timed, as Jack’s currently re-thinking his process and trying out a number of new ideas. I found two of these ideas especially interesting and particularly effective:
(1) He’s changing his standard treatment of the exterior surfaces by repeatedly applying and sanding away layers of paint, achieving a worn finish replete with surprising color combinations.
(2) He’s experimenting with methods for creating flat, wall-mounted works. The process thus far involves pouring his materials onto a plastic-lined board. Once poured, the materials are painted, covered with an additional layer of plastic, and tipped at an angle. As the materials dry, they shift, blend, and overlap, all while retaining the indentations and textures of the plastic sheets. The resulting mass is then adhered to the wall using heavy-duty bolts. While he’s only made a few trial pieces thus far, this new approach is already yielding some really exciting results - I can’t wait to see where he takes it.
A few photos from my visit below (right-click for larger views):