Sunday, May 19, 2024

Henry Mandell

Photo: Keith Stein

Anita Rogers Gallery is pleased to present Superunknown, an exhibition of new work by Henry Mandell.  Superunknown, Mandell’s debut solo exhibition at Anita Rogers Gallery, features paintings and drawings from several bodies of work the artist began during the pandemic.  Mandell’s studio practice is focused on the exploration of experimental artistic practices, the human condition, scientific principles and their merging effect on our lives, pioneering unique approaches to creating abstract artworks.

All of the paintings in Superunknown began as stories, poems, or written data.  Using digital tools, Mandell transforms line by line, letter by letter, the characters of selected source text into visually compelling abstract imagery. The first step in transforming what is known into the unknown, experimenting and painting without the use of iterative code.  All creative decisions remain with the artist’s hand and mind, establishing Mandell’s wide visual vocabulary with digital painting.

The Superunknown series of paintings depict multilayered objects composed of fine colored lines of transformed text about dark matter and current theories about what comprises the fabric of the universe. Each colored line is a separate letter. Like fabric, the overall form is knit up from thousands of separate fine colored line elements like a tapestry from another dimension.  The source theories bound up into the artwork represent the limits of our knowing, as 80% of everything everywhere is invisible dark matter / dark energy and is beyond our understanding.

The Satoshi’s Garden paintings depict looping vortexes of chimerical limbs and primeval roots; strange forms that seem to overrun the thresholds of cognition and formation. A growing living network inspired by mycelium. The paintings are composed from the text of the Bitcoin White Paper. No one knows who Satoshi Nakamoto is. He, She, It or They authored the Bitcoin White Paper. The paper solved the problems of establishing an internet-based platform for conducting financial transactions without banks via a ‘blockchain’ of growing code that lives on thousands of networked computers worldwide mimicking the Wood Wide Web of living plants. Within the Wood Wide Web, actual living root systems are connected by mycelium fungi. They are completely mysterious, and how they work to nourish every living plant in the wild is beyond our understanding.

The Plumb paintings shimmer with thousands of thin vertical lines converging into a veil of color.  A plumb line is traditionally used to level and center one’s self on the surface of the Earth.  It is an ancient tool still in use today, with a hanging weight at the end of a single string that always points to the center of the Earth due to gravity.  In the paintings, the lines are the transformed text of poetry by Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.

The Theory Of Mind paintings form expressively sinuous interwoven patterns of colored lines within an inverted triangle.  Composed from altered text about theory of mind, an important social-cognitive milestone that involves the ability to think about mental states, both your own and those of others and their emotions, desires, beliefs, and knowledge.  Foundational to the development of empathy in children. Also, triangles seem to suggest ‘otherness’, as in it is an unfamiliar form in everyday experience and can serve as an invitation to relate to an ‘other’.

The theme for Superunknown is described by the artist in this way:

“I am inspired by the words of the great artist Ann Hamilton in her essay Making Not Knowing:

One doesn’t arrive — in words or in art — by necessarily knowing where one is going. In every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don’t know. You may set out for New York but you may find yourself as I did in Ohio. You may set out to make a sculpture and find that time is your material. You may pick up a paint brush and find that your making is not on canvas or wood but in relations between people. You may set out to walk across the room but getting to what is on the other side might take ten years. You have to be open to all possibilities and to all routes — circuitous or otherwise.

But not knowing, waiting and finding — though they may happen accidentally, aren’t accidents. They involve work and research. Not knowing isn’t ignorance. (Fear springs from ignorance.) Not knowing is a permissive and rigorous willingness to trust, leaving knowing in suspension, trusting in possibility without result, regarding as possible all manner of response. The responsibility of the artist… is the practice of recognizing…”

Henry Mandell was born in New York City.  He received a BFA in Fine Art from Ithaca College and went on to study art at The School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design / The New School in New York.  His artworks have been exhibited in galleries and museums across the United States and internationally, with artworks held in public, private and corporate collections.  Museum collections include The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Columbia Museum of Art and the Rhode Island School Of Design Museum.  Mandell’s studio is currently in the Pacific Northwest.

Satoshi’s Garden 006, ultraviolet polymer on linen, 72 x 70 in. 2023, courtesy Anita Rogers Gallery.
Theory Of Mind 018, uv polymer on aluminum, 43.25 x 41.75 in. 2023, courtesy Anita Rogers Gallery.
Superunknown 35Q, uv polymer on linen, 54 x 52 in. 2023 courtesy Anita Rogers Gallery.
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