Color, Balance & Form
Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
October 21, 2017 - January 14, 2018
This work’s vibrant colors, playful geometric forms, and expansiveness offer viewers a preview of what they can expect to see in the exhibition “Color, Balance, & Form: Recent Works by Alex Brewer HENSE,” organized by the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. The show opens Saturday, Oct. 21, and continues through Sunday, Jan. 14. This show features acrylic paintings, a large-scale wall collage and sculpture.
After recently conducting an intriguing interview with HENSE, I learned a great deal about his working methods and process. In discussing his public murals such as “Building Blocks,” Brewer said: “I view them as site-specific.”
For these projects, budgets usually dictate the longevity of the finished works and the materials employed to create them. Clear-coating the final products ensures their overall durability.
As he has remarked, “I see beauty in both impermanence and permanence in them,” referring to finalized public commissions that either might stay in situ or eventually be removed from their location.
Born in Atlanta in 1978, HENSE first developed a familiarity with art, architecture and design as a child. Growing up with a father who was an architect, he was surrounded by a large collection of art books in his home that served as a great fount from which he cultivated his creative talents.
Equally significant experiences that shaped Brewer’s artistic development were the many trips he took to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta where he gained exposure to art of all varieties through its encyclopedic collections. Beginning in middle school, he enrolled in art courses, continued with his studio training throughout high school, and devoted himself to a career as a painter. After studying for a period of time at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va., Brewer went out on his own, first completing some corporate work in Charlottesville, Va., and later commencing private, in-house studio projects.
Having been raised without cable television, PBS programming of the 1980s became a key source of inspiration for HENSE and contributed greatly to his nascent interest in art. Specifically, programs that centered on graffiti in New York City (which appeared frequently on the sides of buildings and subway cars), fascinated him as a teenager. The grand scale of this type of street art and its colorful, undulating forms exerted a profound impact on Brewer.
Some of the artists responding to this type of art who were early influences on HENSE include Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. The size of the paintings created by Jackson Pollock and other abstract expressionists encouraged him to paint on a monumental scale.
While Brewer has subconsciously responded to both pre- and post-World War II abstraction, equally significant models for him were minimalists such as Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, and Sol LeWitt. In particular, HENSE cites Kelly’s massive, vivid canvases of rectangles, circles and squares painted in red, blue, yellow and green as having partially inspired his fascination with color and geometric forms.
In this regard, HENSE’s work recalls the simplicity of Russian Constructivist, De Stijl, and German Bauhaus compositions that stressed the harmony and dynamic equilibrium of geometric forms arranged carefully in space. The yellow and white circles in the pictorial plane of Form Study are sharply juxtaposed with the turquoise half-circle, red triangle, and blue pentagonal shape in the lower left, which is superimposed over the adjacent black form.
As Brewer’s career and oeuvre continue to evolve, he has developed a new interest in working with large sculptures made of quarter-inch thick steel. Always remaining innovative and considering alternative materials as a means of creative expression, he looks forward to exploring further this type of medium in the future. The exhibition is sponsored by the Waltersdorf Family Fund at the Community Foundation of Washington County.
Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., is Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown.