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Whitehot Recommends: Lena Henke: Nature Wills It at The Ranch

Lena Henke, Untitled, 2023, Soldered and boiled leather, pigment, plexiglass and plaster, 70 x 20 x 12 in., (detail).

Lena Henke: Nature Wills It

The Ranch's West Barn

May 2 through June 14, 2023 

By WM, April 2023

From the press release:

Henke’s presentation takes up her longstanding interrogations of the equestrian in a new body of work made in response to The Ranch’s own history and architecture. Incorporating leather into her repertoire of materials, these works summon associations not only with animals but with a host of subterranean ravines: fetish clubs in Berlin and Chelsea, sensorial touch, inverted aesthetics of masculinity, taming. Spanning both galleries and including outdoor sculpture, the comprehensive exhibition demonstrates the expansive range of Henke’s sculptural practice.

Lena Henke (born 1982, lives and works in New York City) tests the conditions and possibilities of sculpture with technically innovative methods of production. At the same time, she expands the range of meaning of traditional sculpture by incorporating questions of femaleness and the production of power relations in urban space. The possibilities of plastic art and sculpture serve Henke as a basis for understanding the molding (and casting) of bodies as a changeable process of design. Thus, in groups of works like Hooves, Boobs, and Sand Bodies, the process by which the work becomes a work finds representation; motifs of mimesis link up with motifs of phantasmagoria; and it becomes apparent that the artist does not take her bearings from ideal conceptions but designs her sculptural figures to match her subjective mental images. In doing so, she not only engages the myth of masculinity; she also works with the strands of historical tradition—the questions of pedestal and space—to interrogate the logic of sculptural representation and representability. She holds the reins with great self-assurance, controlling the representation of women's bodies and the symbolic power of horses and intervening in the mechanisms of urban architecture. It is Henke’s far-reaching reflections on the capacity of the sculptural that enable her, conversely, to grasp urbanity as a historically evolved sculpture, whose social mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion can be altered and redefined by means of targeted interventions. Thus, Henke relocated the entrances to her exhibitions and intervened, with her street signs, in the psychology of existing urban structures. Operating this side of social and architectural power structures, Henke's works open up a highly pleasurable imaginative space in which the sculptural itself expands to encompass feminist and biographical perspectives and thus acquires a new topicality. — Vivien Trommer, Head of Collections & Curator, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Henke has exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2018); Hessel Museum of Art, New York (2018); Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland (2018); Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (2017); Sprengelmuseum Hannover (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (2017); Timisoara Contemporary Art Biennale, Romania (2017); Manifesta 11, Zurich (2016); The 9th Berlin Biennale (2016); La Biennale de Montréal (2016); Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2016); Triennale of Small Scale Sculpture in Fellbach, Germany (2016); S.A.L.T.S., Basel (2016); The New Museum, New York (2015); Socrates Sculpture Park, New York (2015); Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland (2014); Kuenstlerhaus Graz, Austria (2014); White Flag Projects, St. Louis (2014); Sculpture Museum Glaskasten, Marl (2014); Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (2013) and Kunstverein Aachen, Germany (2012), among others. Most recently, Henke won the 2022 Marta Award which includes a forthcoming publication and solo exhibition at Museum Marta Herford in 2023. 

Henke’s work is included in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Kunstsammlung des Bundes Bonn, Germany; Belvedere Museum, Vienna, Austria; CCS Bard Museum, Annandale-On-Hudson, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, Florida; MAMCO, Geneva, Switzerland; Sammlung Verbund, Wien, Austria; Socrates Sculpture Park, New York; Skulpturen Park Köln, Cologne, Germany; Skulpturen Museum Glaskasten, Marl, Germany; and the Heidi Horten Collection, Vienna, Austria. WM


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