RAC FlexSpace: Paula Henderson
With her recent series Groundwork, Henderson returns to her ongoing interest in abstraction within a post-modern framework. In contrast to the self-contained formalism of modernism, she focuses on prosaic, schematic patterns of formal appeal that operate simultaneously as social signifiers.
In the Groundwork paintings, Henderson utilizes the distinct patterning from the soles of shoes to think about the very particularity and variety of design that goes into the literal marking (and marketing) of our movement on the ground. In her artist’s statement about this body of work, Henderson notes:
“I record these patterns as I find them, oftentimes a chaotic mix of partial prints and in other sites ordered, discernable designs. This manufactured residue that marks us routinely across space in time, though on the one hand quite ordinary, fascinates me as vestigial configurations of our collective history.
Additionally, I am focused on how these tread patterns act as social signifiers. They are variously studied in forensic science to identify/profile a wearer as suspect. They often serve as distinguishing social and cultural markers by the preponderance of brand patterns marking style trends/ movement in particular neighborhoods in Chicago where I live and work. This brand(ing) of place follows our movement and conditionally holds our histories in sand, rain, snow, concrete, and mud. I am interested in how these surface iconographies- prosaic, routine, overlooked- act as hieroglyphic narratives of our collectivity and markers, as well, of our spatial disparities.
Not insignificantly they resonate with the flow of human activity as witnessed in social migrations/diasporas.
And finally, the range/progression of the Groundwork series from decipherable, ordered, schematic designs to layered ‘remixes’ of partials dispersed within shadows, puts me in mind of human planning- initiated in the abstract by a few with a discrete objective- that once deployed sets in motion unforeseen outcomes for the many.”