Jessie Henson: Refrain
9 November 2023 – 19 January 2024
Opening reception, Friday 10 November from 5 - 7 pm
Anthony Meier is pleased to present Refrain, a solo exhibition of new works by New York-based artist Jessie Henson whose practice blurs boundaries between media by fusing the vernaculars of drawing, sculpture, and embroidery. The artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery since the announcement of her representation in November 2022, Refrain will be on view from 9 November 2023 through 19 January 2024.
Using an industrial sewing machine, Henson works lustrous, brightly colored thread into tightly nestled accretions on paper, which buckles and warps from the force and tension produced by the machine. Wild bursts of color flash across the stillness of the paper’s surface, and the transient appearance of these sewn forms offers a compelling contrast to the steady patience that embroidery demands. Though the works on view range widely in scale, the artist’s highly physical practice and the textured, nearly sculptural forms that result invite viewers into an intimate environment in which to traverse the veritable hills and valleys of their topographical depths.
By foregrounding repetitive actions, Henson examines the contested value of craft practices in the landscape of contemporary art and promotes a consideration of labor and material. While the artist pushes her media to the threshold of fracture and disintegration, she embraces the tears and holes that mark her works as evidence of her own artistic labor and its inherent fragility. The paper used by Henson thus serves as a representation of the body, while the vibrant colors that characterize its surface conjure allusions to different emotional states of mind: pensive, passionate, furtive.
Exemplified by the exhibition’s title as well as the titles of the works in her “Repair” series, Henson’s use of contronyms—words with two opposite meanings—echo the generative tensions at the heart of her practice: those crucial choices regarding when to push her materials to the breaking point with highly repetitive actions and when to pause. This relationship is embodied in the word “refrain” as it refers both to the refrain of a song and as such a kind of repetition, as well as the choice to hold back.
The parenthetical title amending each of the works in Henson’s “Repair” series similarly feature contronyms—such as bound, buckle, dust, bolt, weather, and transparent—as a means of echoing this same tension which is here enhanced by her use of gold leaf. While thread may generally be considered fragile and gold strong, these associations are inverted by the manner in which Henson employs them. Material transformations further persist in the sole wall-hanging sculptural work included in the exhibition. Part of Henson’s “Monuments” series, this piece takes the form of a bronze cast of a found embroidery. By concretizing a flowing fabric in a media many times heavier and adorning it with gold leaf, Henson again celebrates the quiet resonance and yet transformative value of artistic labor.
About Jessie Henson:
Jessie Henson (b. 1977) lives and works in New York, NY and Delhi, NY. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1999 from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington D.C. and a Master of Fine Arts in 2007 from the School of Mason Gross at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.
She has had solo exhibitions at Broadway Gallery, New York, NY; Bushell Collective, Delhi, NY; and A.I.R. Gallery, New York, NY. Recent group exhibitions include Thread Hijack, Hunterdon Museum, Clinton, NJ; Lightning Loom, 208 Gallery, Sea Cliff, NY; Surfaces, Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Poetics of the Afterimage, Dieu Donne Papermill, New York, NY; Line, Bruce
Gallery, Edinboro University, Endinboro, PA; The Quiet Show, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR; Commissaries, Foam Corp., Los Angeles, CA; Altered Views: Experiencing the Contemporary Landscape, The Loudon House, Lexington, KY; Studio Mates, Front Room Gallery, New York, NY; Converge 45, Oregon Contemporary, Portland, OR; Micro to Macro, Cuchifritos, New York, NY; Casa De Empena, Anonymous Gallery, Mexico City; reCOVERED, Frosh and Portmann, New York, NY.
Henson has been an artist in residence at the Bronx Museum of Art, New York, NY; Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE; Urban Glass, New York, NY; the Laundromat Project, New York, NY; and Dieu Donne Papermill, New York, NY.