Henry Swanson, It’s Bigger in Person

17 May - 16 June 2019

Massey Klein Gallery is pleased to announce, It’s Bigger in Person, a solo exhibition of oil on canvas paintings by Henry Swanson.  The exhibition will be on view from May 17th through June 16th with an artist’s reception on Friday, May 17th from 6-8pm.  Also on view in the gallery’s back exhibition space is Kiln It, a group exhibition of ceramic sculptures curated by Jacob Rhodes of Field Projects.

Installation Views
Press release

In his solo exhibition of new oil paintings, artist Henry Swanson mines eulogistic aspects of American exceptionalism through the lens of Western oil painting. Exploring the subject matter of late 19th- and early 20th-century painting, It’s Bigger in Person takes a comedic look at Western culture’s larger-than-life ego in portraiture, landscape, and vanitas and questions the validity of figurative painting.  The jokes have not aged well.

Born in Dallas, Texas, Swanson’s first experiences with fine art were highly conservative and subject to guidelines of stereotypical “Americana”.  Conversations about what his drawings “should be” at a young age have maintained and shaped the humor and skepticism currently depicted within his paintings.  The artist’s paintings dismissively respond to the childhood question, “What do you like to make pictures of?”.  His realistically rendered horses, mountaintops, and portraits alongside seemingly nervous and minimally drawn doodles in spray paint, serve as both a sense of escapism to a childhood of arbitrary subject matter and an appreciation for decisively pared-down paintings of his contemporaries.  But don’t be fooled - Swanson’s works are not without irony. Calling attention to the dated sense of masculine Americana, with its obvious posturing, the artist imbues his paintings with a sense of direct energy, while also capturing their blind search for validation.  It’s Bigger in Person plays the role of its harshest critic… but smiles the entire time.

Henry Swanson is a fine artist examining polarities and performative aspects affecting the art world today. Swanson’s bisected oil on canvas paintings illustrate divisions in process, style, economic interest, time period, and cultural disparity.  Considering the mythos of personal inspiration, culture as branding, and performative trendsetting in the fabrication of artwork, Swanson's work examines the identity of the artist and questions art’s role as a function of the crafter’s precious care, or the contextual aid to a social construct.

Swanson maintains studios in Brooklyn, NY and Dallas, TX.  He received his BFA from RISD.  This is the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery.