Alicia Henry   Witnessing

September 28, 2019 - November 17, 2019

Alicia Henry | Witnessing 

Join us for the opening reception on Saturday, September 28 | 8 PM.
Free and everyone is welcome to attend

For the last two decades, Alicia Henry has been exploring unconventional approaches to portraiture, using the face to represent something that is hidden, revealed and performed. Selecting her media carefully, she works with felt, canvas and other textiles, as well as leather and paperboard, all of which absorb her drawn and stitched gestures that register a spectrum of human contexts and emotions.

In Witnessing, Henry’s compelling compositions are drawn from a multitude of references: the artist’s own memories, her collection of West African masks, events on the street and on television, to name a few. Imbued with her perspective as an African American woman, the figures assert themselves as timeless witnesses embodying the impact of personal and social histories. Notions of gender and family are significant in her works, as are physical layers that suggest multiple and unfixed identities.

Henry does not view her art as political but acknowledges that “at this time in the United States, the brown body has become politicized.” In her graceful and expressive installations, a lingering melancholy evokes racial traumas suffered by innumerable groups and individuals, today and over the centuries. But simultaneously—through their direct gaze and attentive composure—Henry’s multigenerational survivors exude a powerful strength and confidence. Perhaps they stand in anticipation of an egalitarian future—a utopian goal that underpins much of Henry’s practice.

Curated by Daina Augaitis

Alicia Henry lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee. Isolation and interaction are common themes in Henry’s work. She is interested the complexities, contradictions, and differences that surround societal relationships and how these variations affect individual and group responses to themes of beauty, the body and identity. Her current body of work explores the processes through which groups (specifically female) navigate these issues.

Henry received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a MFA from Yale University School of Art. She has received numerous awards, fellowships and grants, including the Joan Mitchel Painter and Sculptor Grant (2013); the Guggenheim Fellowship (2000-2001), and the Ford Foundation Fellowship (1989-1991); residencies at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (1990), the Fine Arts Work Centre in Provincetown (1991-1993), Art in General, New York (2000); and the MacDowell Art Colony (1993). Most recently, Henry received the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art Award (2016) and the Centre of Excellence for the Creative Arts Fellowship (2016-2017). Her work has been written about in Artforum International, ARTS ATL, New York Studio Conversations II, The Human Aura in Art, Nashville Arts Magazine, the BURNAWAY, The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World, Art of Tennessee, Taboo, and The Globe and Mail.

Her work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions including the Atlanta Biennial (2019); the 13th Havana Biennial (Matanzas-2019); Cheekwood Museum, Nashville (2018-2019); Frist Museum, Nashville (2016); the Hunter Museum of American Art (2014); Tennessee State Museum, Nashville (2014); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia (2013); the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (2013); South Bend Museum of Art, South Bend, Indiana (2004); Islip Museum, New York (2002); the Nashville International Airport (2002); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (2002); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City (1997); and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1996).

Image credit: Alicia Henry, Untitled (13 female figures), installation view, 2019. Courtesy of The Power Plant, Toronto and Toni Hafkenscheid.

The Exhibition is organized and circulated by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto. Sponsored by TD Bank Group and supported by Lead Donor Lonti Ebers, Major Donor Peter M. Ross and Support Donors Liza Mauer & Andrew Sheiner and Margaret McNee.

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