Pedro Cera is proud to present the first exhibition of Lena Henke at the gallery.
Inspired by a recurrent dream where Henke encountered herself as a baby, the sequence of unconscious events initiated a nostalgic journey into the past, spiraled by a labyrinth of associations and appropriations interlinked with the artist’s memories and personal experience. Taking on a self-analytical approach and making herself the center of the work, the installation in the first room of the exhibition perpetuates Henke’s interest in psychoanalysis and the unconscious. The baby, a central figure of the work, depicts Henke as a three-year-old. One leg of the sculpture is cast in the Chrysler building’s shape, Henke’s favorite architectural symbol of New York, the city where she is also based and the architecture she has repeatedly referred to throughout her work. The sculpture’s arm is reminiscent of a horse hoof, an allusion to the artist’s childhood spent near a horse farm, and a reference to fetishism and Freudian thought, firmly tied with Henke’s existing practice. The sculpture brings together seemingly remote elements from Henke’s life, materialized here into a somewhat surreal resemblance of the artist’s self. The two support structures, a drying rack (a domestic object, but also a symbol of care and motherhood) and a utility pole, both connected with a rubber band, suggestive of the umbilical cord, represent parental figures. Association with the holy trinity interlinks the work with classical modes of art-historical depiction, creating a parallel layer of the work’s reading. Through an assumed analytical attitude and a classical approach to the medium of sculpture, paired with an anthropomorphic language of Surrealism, The Holy Trinity or Three Points In Time, establishes new relations between distant subjects and their environment, thus bringing together seemingly remote parts of life.
The second room of the exhibition introduces a group of works influenced by the artist’s visit to Lisbon last year. Inspired by the architecture and the history of the Lisbon Aguas Livres Aqueduct, a remarkable example of 18th-century engineering and a major source of Lisbon’s water supply, the aqueduct here stands as a symbol of modernization, urban development, water flow, but also of birth and the energy involved in water’s transformation, as suggested by the exhibition title. The work of Henke is characteristic for its formal ambiguity. Resembling the aqueduct’s architecture, the plinths also echo the formal nature of large archways, explored throughout Henke’s current practice. A series of ceramic sculptures placed on top of the aqueduct-inspired pedestals repeats the horse hoof’s motive, one of the baby sculpture’s attributes and a symbol of desire and fetishism. Henke’s sculptural way of thinking emphasizes the sculpture’s materiality. Interested in the haptic nature of ceramic and its relation to energy, tied to its making, the sculptures bear a strong relation to time. Time is manifested here through the treatment of soft clay, which before burning, is squeezed, and pressured into its final form by using sculpted ropes and snake-like forms swirling up the horse hoof. Through a careful selection of attributes, Henke ties the work with references to life, death, or fertility, all carefully crafted into an installation that might as well resemble an unconscious dream.
Lena Henke (1982) has developed a diverse body of sculptural works, often arranged in comprehensive spatial installations. Her work has been exhibited at Kunsthalle Zurich, (Switzerland), S.A.L.T.S., Basel, (Switzerland), Kunsthalle Schirn, Frankfurt am Main, (Germany), Kunstmuseum Luzern, (Switzerland), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, (NY) New Museum, New York, (NY) and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, (Germany) among other. In 2019 Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen held a survey exhibition of Lena Henke’s work, summarizing the past ten years of her practice. In the same year, Henke was awarded the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. Her work is part of the collection of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, (FL), Kunsthalle Bern, (Switzerland), Kunsthalle Bielefeld, (Germany), MAMCO Museum, Geneva (Switzerland), Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, (Germany) and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among other.
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