This latest piece by the artist known as Henry appears, to the untrained eye, to be merely a series of meaningless squiggles of color rendered upon the page by a child turned loose with a paintbrush and a few cups of water-washable paint. And while this description contains elements of truth, it is incumbent upon any responsible viewer of art to look deeper than such John Q. Sixpack impressions. The very finiteness of this life which we mortals must inhabit demands that the learned among us engage in a kind of optical archaeology in order to uncover meaning when confronted with a piece such as this.
Henry is not without his naysayers, of course, and they will no doubt point to his previous forays into the abstract (some would say arbitrary!) in an effort to discredit this latest offering, as if their own obtuseness provided sufficient rebuttal to the declaration of value placed upon the products of a mind that they could not possibly hope to comprehend.
This work, however, indicates a new direction for an artist who has, up to now, been content working within the confines of chaos and disorder, not only imbuing the works themselves with explosive and indiscernible forms, but challenging even the limits of the mediums themselves through their seeming demise. For what is a work of art that the artist rends into pieces if not a new work? What is a room full of destroyed work but a new installation? Is the shock of the artist’s parents upon discovering this “mess” not the artist’s mission fulfilled? Do not make the philistine mistake of interpreting this as meaningless trife, for within the chaos resides meaning a thousand layers deep. The meaning does not arise out of the chaos, the meaning is within the chaos itself. The chaos is the meaning, the meaning is the chaos. The meaning of chaos defies the presence of meaning, and yet meaning refuses to disappear into the cloud of disorder, and is there for any and all with enough soul, heart, intellect, worldliness (pick your quality, truly) to stare deep into the maelstrom which the artist hath wrought.
“But what is this?” the viewer asks upon only a cursory glance. For there, unexpectedly, set apart from the gashes of color that Henry has cut into the paper stands not one but two, TWO representations of the letter “H.” They stand nearby, outside of the snarl, sanctified from it. And not only outside, but above it. This indicates not dominance, for truly, only the fool’s fool would claim dominion over discord, but rather a creator-creation relationship. From the understood comes the misunderstood, which then goes forth into the world seeking understanding, but rarely finding any such comfort. Clearly, these two letters are representative of the artist himself. With these six lines, Henry has placed himself inside his own work, positioning himself as the creator, the bringer of bedlam, and in so doing, he has quite literally recreated himself. It is as if he understands his role as the unleasher of tumult, and has embraced it. Ironically, in adding clearly understood elements to his work, he has even further solidified his role as chaos personified.