John Henderson

John Henderson, Cast / Calco, 2013. Collezione privata, Milano. Courtesy T293, Napoli. In comodato a Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Foto © Maurizio Esposito. | John Henderson, Cast, 2013. Private collection, Milan. Courtesy T293, Naples. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples. Photo © Maurizio Esposito.

The work of the young American artist John Henderson (Minneapolis, 1984) is characterized both by the heterogeneity of the means of expression used – comprising painting, sculpture, video, photography, and performance – and by a profound conceptual coherence. It can be defined as a comprehensive reflection on the linguistic components of painting, as raw material, gesture and support, even when the works do not directly entail the medium of painting. The artist fuses allusions to the history of modern and contemporary art which range from the convergence of gesture and painting inherent in American Abstract Expressionism to the research into materials that distinguishes European Art Informel and the relations between action and photography of a conceptual kind that have characterized performance art since the 60s.

Among the most iconic works produced to date by Henderson are those in the Casts series. Here the artist creates abstract pictorial surfaces with a strongly gestural and tactile matrix, from which he then makes casts in bronze, brass or aluminum. These materials absorb all the visual information contained in the picture, except for the original colors, while restoring and amplifying the density of perception of them by using the language of the bas-relief. Once the casts have been made, the paintings that gave rise to them are destroyed. With this series of works, visually refined and conceptually dense, Henderson explores themes related to memory and the temporality of the work, the transmission and processing of information, the relations between the uniqueness of the pictorial gesture and the reproducibility of the casting technique, as well as bringing into play an ambiguous interchange between image and object, painting and sculpture, negative and positive, original and copy. Once the cast has been made the colors are no longer visible: the focus shifts to the act of painting and the accumulation of material in a practice that blends the tradition of sculpture with the performativity implicit in the paintings of an artist like Jackson Pollock.
The work in the collection is one of the most complex and representative examples of this cycle, and though it has never been exhibited in Naples was cast here. With these works Henderson shows he belongs to a generation of artists who, at the global level, are exploring the relations between immateriality and the pervasiveness of the digital image and its many embodiments in materiality and in the perceptivity of the supports and analogic media. In addition, the layering of multiple dimensions, both formal and conceptual, evident in this work, relates it to other works in this same gallery, which in their turn explore the language of abstract and figurative painting as a space in continuous transformation, a palimpsest of memories in which processes, materials and images are captured in a stage of almost alchemical metamorphosis.