Gallant Company mirrors the versatility of Henwood’s mind and the variety of his creative endeavour. The exhibition is curated around three main sections that span Henwood’s career for the past ten years and presents the breath of media he works with: painting, video and mass-production techniques among others.
The first section is a selection of new oil paintings from an on-going series of actor portraits, There For the Grace of God. The paintings feature actors from the 60s who never made it and extras who bare remarkable resemblance to more famous stars. Both pathetic and glamorous in some way, these pictures tackle the importance of fame and success in a world shaped by mass media and driven by consumption. The large scale canvases featured in the exhibition Gallant Company are Henwood’s first group pieces created so as to see the actors in a situation, like the midget and the show girl at home in the painting Gallant Company (see image above) that is as well the title of the show.
The second section of the exhibit features earlier large gouache paintings of teenagers, an ongoing project of ten years. Raphael Rubinstein, a senior editor at Art in America, tells how he found these portraits strikingly straightforward “not only in their style, which updates the poster like brightness of Alex Katz' s paintings with photographic detail and emotional nuance,” he writes “but also in their obvious concern with capturing an individual face and personality.” And he goes on to say: “Paying more attention to the identities of his subjects than to what they might represent, Henwood doesn't submit these teenagers to any obvious artistic editorialising, nor does he seek to subsume their individuality into a world of media constructs.” Henwood never falls into the traps of sermonising his audience nor does he indulges into creating overly seductive images. “Henwood's work is fully cognisant of the anxiety and exploitation that currently surround childhood,” writes Rubinstein. “At the same time, he reminds us that, even in a mediasaturated society, even if the old myth of innocence has collapsed, childhood should remain a subject for celebration, not least because of its ability to function as a round- theclock factory for the imagination. ”
The third part is a corner of the gallery devoted to Henwood’s video art. Using the wallpaper designed for the installation of an animated film tour with MOMA NYC in 2000- 2001, Henwood recreates the original installation and premiere his brand new Kanye West video.
Gallant Company, a solo show by Simon Henwood, will run from Saturday 8 November through 6 December 2008 at TORCH Gallery, Amsterdam. The artist will be present during the opening on Saturday 8 November from 4 to 6 p.m. For sale at the gallery, brand new survey catalogue, Henwood: Paintings and Films 19882008.