For her exhibition Embrassade at Galerie Fons Welters, Lena Henke shows a selection of sculptures which all derive from an ongoing project, Geburt und Familie that started in 2014.
These bright colored sculptures look like enlarged children’s drawings. They hark back to Rudolf Steiner’s charcoal drawings, which are to be seen as a notation of his doctrine. This is the notion that drawings you make before your seventh birthday form the fundament for all later developments in life. The shapes of the sculptures in this series all relate, often directly, to the human body: there is an ovum, a blood cell, and a white eye on view. The things depicted cause an odd kind of intimacy and simultaneous awkwardness, especially in combination with their titles that often hint at certain emotional and physical attachment.
The elegant, see through sculptures have outstanding material qualities. Henke especially developed fiberglass rope, a material which did not yet exist, to be able to ‘draw in space’. Because she made the sculptures on the floor of her studio, all kinds of traces of the studio floor can be found on the backside of the sculptures. The qualities of both the material and making process are important: the resulting frayed edges are due to a self-made production process. This is an important aspect of Henke’s practice, as well as the development from 2D to 3D and the energetic and esoteric processes during the creation of the sculptures.
Striking is that they are placed within a grid which covers both floor and walls of the gallery space. Where Steiner let his emotional research take place through drawings, Bert Hellinger invented the so-called family placing method. Here, you are asked to place ‘stand-ins’ that represent family members in space to visualize the relationships between them. This provides you with insight into how you relate to them. This relation between psyche and the environment you are in, is very interesting to Henke and comes back often by fusing architecture, psyche and body.
The title of the show, Embrassade, does not just mean ‘embracing’ or ‘kissing’, but also has the connotation of ‘to cling to’: you stick with effort to a certain idea, maybe out of fear. But there’s also the sexual and emotional interpretation of an entanglement, where the fiberglass ropes serve as a kind of fetishistic metaphor. The word play of a title like Embrassade allows you to enjoy the secret revelation of this impermissible idea, while the prohibition of such a revelation remains intact.
Lena Henke, born 1982 in Warburg, Germany, lives and works in New York City. Recent solo exhibitions include a.o.: The Kunsthalle Schirn, (2017) Kunstverein Braunschweig, (2016), at White Flag Projects, St. Louis, and at Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten, Marl, Germany (both 2014) and upcoming at Kunsthalle Zurich (2018). Henke’s work has been included in group exhibitions at institutions including the Whitney Museum, New York (2018); Socrates Sculpture Park, New York (2015); Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland (2014); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (2013). Her work has been featured in major international exhibitions including Made in Germany, Germany (2017) The 9th Berlin Biennale, Germany (2016), La Biennale de MONTREAL, Montreal, Canada, (2016), Manifesta 11, Zurich (2016), and the New Museum Triennial, New Museum, New York (2015).