Far or hid, Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City, 2018
“Far or hid” is the title of John Henderson’s current solo exhibition at Proyectos Monclova, an installation composed of painting, video and photography. Henderson’s work occupies and reconfigures various precedents from art history—post-war abstraction, minimalist and conceptual practices—in order to question ideas related to authorship, reproducibility, and material translation.
An untitled video is positioned just outside of the main gallery, serving as a preface to the rest of the exhibition. Displayed on a vertical screen, the video presents a fixed, closely-cropped view of a skylight in the artist’s studio during a rainstorm. The predetermined geometry of the window’s frame is contrasted by the irregular, pulsing rhythm of the rainfall, producing an artwork that is simultaneously an autobiographical portrait of the artist’s workplace and a kind of automatic painting realized as movement and sound—a staged situation, harnessing chance effect. The video’s focused contemplation and subdued atmosphere are extended throughout the exhibition as Henderson has painted the walls to closely match the pre- existing grey color of the gallery’s floor. While this neutral color may alternately evoke such contrasting environments as the Rothko Chapel or the achromatic workspace of Photoshop, it also suggests an equilibrium and equivalency between the floor and walls, thereby compressing the relationship between the present architecture, the artworks, and the viewer. This is a space for looking slowly and closely.
The exhibition is centered around a series of abstract paintings on canvas, pristine objects that conceal the labor of their construction. Self-consciously performing the role of the painter, Henderson approaches these works as documents of their own production. Each painting is built up in many layers of gestural mark-making and subtle geometric forms before the paint is carefully removed and attenuated to achieve a perfectly flat surface. The results are diffuse, palimpsestic images, paintings seemingly caught between accumulation and erasure.