Kent Henricksen

Andy Warhol in the Sixties, Sigmar
Polke in the Seventies, David Salle
and Robert Gober in the Eighties,
Meyer Vaisman in the Nineties
had in different moods and modes
resorted to fabric and/or patterns
to prevent stylistic figuration or
insinuate a simulacrum of it
(and traces of their works are there,
visible or invisible, in Henricksen’s
modus operandi). From a more
distant past, Duchamp’s assisted
ready-mades had of course presided
over the Modernist project of offsetting
the routine of artistic fabrications
with a massive dose of prefabricated
forms and images invested with a
new role: that of providing the blunt
corrective of streams of collective
conscious to the overflowing of
an individual’s subconscious, thus
revolutionizing the very notion of
meaning in art. In this multiple and
cacophonic history of mutant usage
of the material that connotes the
semiotic dressing of either the
body or the home (in the Twenties,
Productivist artists Varvara Stepanova
and Liubov Popova diverted the making of patterned/geometrical
abstractionism from painting on
canvas or paper to textiles and
clothing), Henricksen introduces
a voice of further disturbance.
The commercial printed fabric
(lately replaced by thin linen on
which are silk-screened patterns of
his own design) becomes for him
both an anti- and post-canvas, with
its ready-constructed pop-rococo
imagery of playful peasants and
grazing animals, and a contextual
half-utopian half-phony narrative
ground, over and inside of which
his own fictional characters – the
KKK-like hooded Oppressor and its
mask-covered Victim – embroidered
in black, white and silver, can
incessantly resume their assigned
role, enacting scenes of submission
and torture for the benefit of history.
A double surface is usually at play
in Henricksen’s works, that of the
printed fabric or silk-screened linen
saturated with the recurring pattern
of a fête champêtre or a similar
idyllic scenery – a derogatory support
seemingly homologous to the blank
canvas but in fact a critique of
it, since it is infected with banal
figural motifs – and the embroidery
which, with its highly tactile quality,
denies that fictional presumption
of flatness with its quasi-threedimensional,
low-relief background.
The imprinted, artificial countryside
over which the artist further spins
his scaring games of played-out
social bondage also offers a clean,
ready-made, a well-contructed
space for his scattered imaginal
intervention, in a sense functioning
not much differently from Schnabel’s
crockery of the late Seventies, early
Eighties. This spatial multiplicity
is compounded by the conflation
of times, with the tapestries’
garden party, summoned from the
pre-revolutionary world of Watteau,
Boucher, and Fragonard, gingerly
crashed by Bataille’s Modernist
érotisme noir: as if a petit bourgeois,
escapist scenography were
being evoked mainly as the
shattered mythology over
which the artist could build
a materialist iconography.