03.09. – 08.10.2005
Anton Henning (GER)
“27 mainly quite appealing sculptures”
Solo exhibition at Arndt & Partner, Berlin

Anton Henning “27 mainly quite appealing sculptures”, (Arndt & Partner, Berlin) Anton Henning “27 mainly quite appealing sculptures”, (Arndt & Partner, Berlin)



The paintings of Anton Henning easily provoke a reproach from the
critical beholder. Overladen with visual allusions and art historical
quotes, his densely coloured, impassioned panoramas often verge on
the borders of good taste. While developing a very broad formal
repertoire, the artist generously and boldly appropriates the
vocabulary of modernism. Seemingly arbitrary he mixes stylistic
characteristics of Courbet, Mondrian, or Warhol. Geometrical and
gestural abstractions hover within landscapes, interiors, still-lives or
nudes, while garish colours collide with desaturated hues, creating an
infernal canon of our collective visual memory.

Yet, Anton Henning does not simply cater to the art historically
educated viewer. He misleads him by combining motives of
modernist masterpieces with ordinary images from the 21st century.
Palm tree-lined beaches and Picasso, pin-ups and Picabia appear
within the same pictorial space – and yet, are not a collage. Both
worlds are merged artistically by means of a vigorous and confident
handwriting. By doing so, the artist consciously flirts with the
decorative and the superficial.

The convergence of style and subject matter is as much part of
Henning’s artistic language as the playful interweaving of
autobiographical sujets and historical references. Whilst he plays
with familiar visual codes, he places himself amongst historical
figures, thus claiming equal prominence for himself. The walls in
his painted Interieurs, for example, display his own paintings right
next to Warhol’s flower pictures. Furthermore, their warm and
glowing colours evoke Matisses’ paintings of his studio. Are these to
be read as an atmospherical homage to the modernist masters? Or
rather as an ironical commentary? Probably both – in any case Anton
Henning’s paintings take the viewer on a journey to the modernist
past, which is undermined by its existence as a quotation.

While the flat picture plane is an integral part of Anton Henning’s
oeuvre, he does not merely confine himself to this medium.
Recurrently, he transposes his sujets into three dimensional space,
introducing yet another level of references. In his installations he
questions deconstructivist approaches to the White Cube, alluding to
traditions of institutional critique during the 70ies. Further he
reinterprets the Salon – the epitome of the bourgeois’ cultural sphere
of the late 19th century. The walls of his three-dimensional Interieurs,
which he often refines with self-designed furniture, are composed in
geometrical fields of colour and adorned with his own canvases. His
paintings, again and again quoting his own pictorial vocabulary,
seem like obtrusive pop-ups, forbidding any concentration on the
monochrome geometrical patterns on the walls. His installations
thus seem like a picture-puzzle of his two dimensional compositions.

At Arndt & Partner, Berlin, Anton Henning will for the first time
exhibit sculptures, encountering yet another level in his oeurvre.
Through his mesmerizing sensuality and his respectful, but winking
commentary on the achievements of his artistic predecessors Anton
Henning purposefully incurs criticism. Even though his new works
are presented on pedestals and thus are reminiscent of sculptural
conventions, not all of them can be read as sculptures in the literal
sense. Rather, some of them are canvases fastened to cubical objects,
encouraging the viewer to walk around them. Besides, he will
present three-dimensional translations of his ornamental, abstract
shapes, that have for years untamingly been swirling through his
paintings. What we have known from Anton Henning’s (wall-)
paintings, is now blocking our way. ‘Sculpture is what you bumb
into, when you back up to see a painting’, Barnett Newman once
complained about the large scale works of his colleagues. His
statement does not apply to the oeuvre of Anton Henning: when we
are looking at his paintings, we are at the same time perceiving his
sculptures and the other way round.