"White Elephant"- a new show of drawings and sculptures at Rosamund Felsen gallery

Oscillating between fascination and apprehension, Kathleen Henderson illuminates our struggle to make sense of a senseless world with her expansive and ambitious exhibition of new drawings and sculptures at Rosamund Felsen Gallery. At once agitated and masterful, Henderson’s oil-stick line confronts head-on the financial sector and its place in a system of gross inequalities; the excess and waste of massively expensive and tragically useless trophy projects, or ‘white elephants’; and a profiteering pharmaceutical industry that is moving beyond marketing drugs to humans and setting their sights on neurotic and depressed domestic animals as well. These new drawings, replete with tension and vulnerability, weave figurative narratives that are at once anonymous and achingly familiar.

Inspired by Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us - a collection of essays imagining the beauty and brutality of an Earth without humans, Henderson goes further with a group of drawings depicting voracious scenery overwhelming isolated ghost figures awed and dwarfed in an apocalyptic environment.

Deeply reflective, heartbreakingly honest and fiercely critical, Henderson’s poignant works are attempts to reveal the attitudes of people, society, and the world at large - along with the humorous, lovely, and at times disturbing interactions that result.


Art in America

Art in America

Kathleen Henderson

Rosamund Felsen

By Leah Ollman

The intensity of Kathleen Henderson’s line invests her drawings with a curious urgency. Nothing momentous or incendiary appears to be happening in the recent works—unlike previous examples, which conjure the physical and psychological dimensions of torture or the playing out of mythic struggles—but that urgency remains. Henderson draws in oilstick, usually black, pressing dense pigment onto the page, outlining figures with insistence and brevity. She seems to be channeling the impulses of both naïf and savant in these crude but incisive takes on human behavior.

Henderson’s scenarios generally take place against a stark background of blank white paper, interrupted only by the occasional dilute stain of gray or coral. Without contextual clues regarding place or time, the images read as universal, the characters within them acting on primal instincts. Many of the drawings here depict benign, common activities: wading in the sea, getting fitted by a dressmaker, doing backbend exercises, gathering around a fire. Henderson’s agitated line ratchets up the tension, as does her way of casting humans as awkward creatures, distilled to an animal essence. They rarely have necks or hair, so their forms look lumpen, unfinished. Eyes and mouths are reduced to irregular dots. The images amount to a chronicle of humanity, informed by observations, fables, fairy tales and the news.

Even the simplest of scenes can unspool a string of associations, many of them troubling. In Raincoats #1 and Raincoats #2, for instance, cloaked figures huddle together, not like ordinary pedestrians protecting themselves from the weather, but like an odd batch of captives. Their garments resemble burkas or, when the hoods are pointed, the hood worn by the prisoner in the indelible photo from Abu Ghraib or the costuming of the KKK. The raincoats, drawn in deceptively cheery blue, red, green and orange, fully enclose the characters like body bags, and they tilt and bump blindly into one another.

Throughout the recent work, the midcareer artist, based in Berkeley, Calif., sustains a tone of unpredictability. The situations she draws feel unstable, and individuals—often naked or mostly so—exude an anxious vulnerability. Prior work set that vulnerability within a scenario of the abuse of power. Here, it pervades the scenes like an atmospheric condition. Henderson’s work fits snugly, and wonderfully idiosyncratically, within the tradition of dark satire. In a series here based on Edward Hicks’s painting The Peaceable Kingdom, her pictures tweak the harmony by rendering it ambiguous, suggesting that coexistence between species is just as vexed as living among our imperfect genetic kin.

Photo: Kathleen Henderson: Untitled (dressmaker), 2011, oilstick on paper,18 by 241⁄4 inches; at Rosamund Felsen.

Kathleen Henderson Drawings - Gallery Paule Anglim

Kathleen Henderson, "Head of Train.", 2011, Oil stick on paper, 27" x 22" 

Gallery Paule Anglim is pleased to announce an exhibition of new drawings by Kathleen Henderson.

The exhibition will feature recent oil stick works on paper that play within an orchestrated associative context. Implying a narrative voice recounting a story or point of view, the drawings describe thought processes that seem both absurdly personal and capable of weightier relevance. Henderson's method of drawing pays homage to the greater range of cartoon drawing, from the political satire to the comic book variety. Creating an experience more common in literature, she layers intimacy (psychology) with more profound themes (history.)

Kathleen Henderson is presenting other new work at Rosamund Felsen Gallery in Los Angeles May 26th - June 30th. The exhibition Notes on a Gathering Crowd, will feature a large group of new oil stick on paper drawings.

Kathleen Henderson lives and maintains her studio in Berkeley. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Boston University and her MFA from Queens College, New York. In 2008 her solo exhibition "What if I could Draw a Bird That Could Change the World" was mounted at the Drawing Center in New York.

You may visit the gallery's web site for more information: www.gallerypauleanglim.com

Irresistible Empire June Show

Kathleen HendersonRosamund Felsen gallery

press release

Irresistible Empire

June 5, 2010 — July 3, 2010

Reception: Saturday June 5th, 5-7 pm

Through a finely developed compositional acuity and a singular, fully-loaded line quality, Henderson manages to re-focus frames of human folly culled from the everyday and the eternal. Her anonymous, yet achingly-familiar characters cavort and cringe, sometimes through complex, cluttered landscapes, but more often in a theatrical void. Personal and political scandal, current and ancient wars, battles horrific and banal, all blend with a background of children’s fairy tales and ancient myths. Religious doctrine and ritual swirl menacingly around exquisite and uncanny likenesses. With these new oil stick drawings, figures are finding themselves shadowed by stains and smudges, visually abstracted and isolated even as they, “ begin to function as a narrative element in themselves,” as Henderson herself suggests. Slashes of color offer what may be redemption, or futile repentance. A small group of sculptures seems to have sprung fully formed from this new set of drawings. Henderson’s use of paper pulp, tar and tinted wax present an organic extension of her gestural narratives. The ship is listing perilously and the oily waters are rising and there is room in the lifeboats for only the rats. Irresistible Empire Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica june 5th- July 3rd OPP

Art review: Kathleen Henderson at Rosamund Felsen

By Leah Ollman, LA Times, June 25, 2010

Every show of Kathleen Henderson’s feels like a privileged glimpse into the artist’s dark diary. Or is it our culture’s diary? Or humankind’s in general? Henderson’s drawings are tough, brutal even, sometimes funny, almost always absurd. They are crude, raw, spare, ambiguous, and truer to life than the highest resolution photograph.

In her third show at Rosamund Felsen, Henderson fills the gallery with oil stick drawings and a small selection of tabletop sculptures fashioned of wax, paper, wire, paint and tar. There is much continuity between her new and earlier work, but also a bit of change — a firmer sense of place in some of the drawings, an expanded use of materials (more touches of color, and dilute tones complementing the linear forms, acting as off-register echoes or shadows). As ever, Henderson’s work has a searing immediacy. It seems simple — just a few characters, roughly outlined, on each sheet — but its implications and interpretations ripple outward indefinitely.

Verbal or visual threads tie some of the images to familiar events or subjects in the news. It’s hard to see any of Henderson’s hooded figures without recalling the disclosures about Abu Ghraib, and from there, thinking about torture in general, perpetrators, victims, anonymity and accountability. The phrase “Too Big to Fail” has become shorthand for any number of collapsible giants of industry. Henderson uses it to title a spot-on spoof of testosterone-driven hubris: a scene of four men in acrobatic balance, one standing on the ground and supporting the other three, perched on his thighs and shoulders. What stabilizes the whole? The central figure’s enormous penis, extending from his fly to the ground like the third leg of a tripod.

Phalluses make another appearance in the equally satirical “Small Celebrants and the Emergence of a New Poly-phallic God,” an image your imagination might be able to conjure, but only if you leave it open to both the outlandish and the mythic, for this new deity is not only multiply endowed in the region you’d expect but also shares a trait with Samson. His hair is an unusual source of strength. Yeah. Those aren’t dreadlocks.

ARTFORUM, critic’s picks

Author: Sharon Mizota

11.15.08-12.20.08 Rosamund Felsen Gallery

Kathleen Henderson’s exhibition of drawings and sculptures, titled “I Shew You a Mystery,” evokes the peculiarly American concoction of hope and fear, faith and desperation, that filled many nineteenth-century Christian revivalist meetings. Yet her spare, casual oil-stick drawings and lumpy, scatological sculptures are resolutely of the present, depicting a world still uncomfortable with itself: bellicose, juvenile, a bit confused, and often touchingly vulnerable. The drawings depict hooded figures (usually men) and cheeky satyrs in scenarios that are alternately ominous, tender, and darkly humorous. A man aims a rifle in front of a wooden shack; another is chained spread-eagle to a wheel. Other figures pray, hold hands, or waltz together awkwardly, and in one of the more bizarre examples, a dark-haired man helps a skinny hooded figure to direct his penis, which snakes out of his shorts like an umbilical cord, to the toilet. This mix of menace, comedy, and pathos is reminiscent of Philip Guston’s Klan paintings, but Henderson’s work is perhaps closer to the arch comic-book style of Raymond Pettibon, who shares her black sense of humor and eclectic, often outré subject matter.

Speaking of which, penises—both literal and symbolic—crop up throughout the show, signaling an irreverent fascination with the myths and pratfalls of manhood. This impression is reinforced by images of Pan, the horned Greek god, considered both a symbol of virility and a model for depictions of Satan. One paper-pulp-and-tar sculpture depicts Pan with a drooping phallus that isn’t nearly as long as his curling, rigid beard. This displacement of male potency undergirds the entire exhibition, revealing the misdirected masculinity at the heart of these chaotic, anxious times. The drawing Untitled (taping man), 2008, is a frighteningly succinct example: Two figures fasten a third to a board with strips of tape and hang him upside down. It’s a scene straight out of Jackass or, perhaps, Guantánamo Bay.

NY Times, The listings,Aug. 14th, 2009,H. Cotter

KATHLEEN HENDERSON: 'WHAT IF I COULD DRAW A BIRD THAT COULD CHANGE THE WORLD?' This beautiful and chilling show of oil stick drawings is like a fairy tale version of Abu Ghraib as drawn by Ben Shahn. Torture is in progress; Hitler tries his wings; men with bags for heads hunt animals but may be animals themselves; a fat bird flies by, trailing the words, ''If I could draw a bird that could change the world? In a good way, I mean. In a good way.'' The Drawing Center, the Drawing Room, 35 Wooster Street, SoHo, (212) 219-2166, drawingcenter.org; closes on Thursday. (Cotter)--