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 (born 1966, Illinois) lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions at institutions, including the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville (2016); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia (2012); the Nashville International Airport (2002); the Cheekwood Museum, Nashville (2000); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City (1997); and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1996). She has received numerous awards such as the Joan Mitchel Foundation award, the Ford Foundation Fellowship, the Guggenheim Fellowship and, most recently, the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. A native of Illinois, Henry received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA at Yale University at the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Henry is currently a professor of art at Fisk University in Nashville, one of the oldest Black universities in the United States.

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

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