Enough time in a room full of men and the stories turn blue. It’s just a thing.
Maintenance chores are all about desire for the good life. Maybe that should be edited down: Maintenance chores are all about desire. Present your space in its best light. Present your body groomed, worked out, and postured with confidence.
John Henley’s work is sexy and explicit and populated with hot men in various degrees of undress. Usually men and not boys and enough women to keep it human. Regular, attainable, hard working, ordinary. But something else entirely is going on here. The images are about desire, but desire shifts under your feet so it is difficult to differentiate between hot sex or clean sheets, a room addition to your home or decent cup of coffee. John’s lexicon of desire is no euphemism for prurient subject matter. It is really stuff he wants and can reasonably expect to work a little and get on a pretty consistent basis. String small attainments together, and a good life is under construction. Lived in the context of community that works together, loves together, and occasionally has spats and tension. There is spectacle and illusion but never really anything that amounts to drama. Not a simple compilation. Episodic structures that contain ruptures, re-do’s and parallaxes. The sex bits are there and not in some mournful way that isolates, hides in shame, or relegates to magical thinking. Bits bumping against bits for the bump of it and then back to work. Matter-of-fact without becoming brazen nor losing heat. Emotions and the daily grind all part of a connection.
John’s painting is about what you see and can’t say. An expanse of deep blue can relax a troubled mind, well up into deep and weighty sadness, or inflame a randy impulse to grope and thrust. It may describe a bucolic lake or a dreamy stare upwards. It may be word play. Blue as in dirty. Blue as in melancholic. Blue as in blue. Trying to say how all those things work inside images built on subject matter and narrative structures is a fool’s errand. John’s paintings color like that. Color schemes that pretend to be simplified and maybe simply found. Worked like paint. Strokes and gestures. The every day of it all. Lines that carry awkward bulges. Flattened perspective pushing against illusionistic expanses. The crummy cardstock he paints on so the art is not so very fine.
John’s accessible narratives unfold without pandering or dumbing down. We know how he made every move, but we easily get caught up in his scene. Stay a while and see how it pans out.