Simon Henwood

October 4, 2000 - January 7, 2001


British artist and filmmaker Simon Henwood exhibits a new 3-D computer-animated video entitled Johnny Pumpkin in the Museum's Lobby Gallery.

About the Exhibition

By Raphael Rubinstein

The most obvious thread running through Simon Henwood's wide range of creative endeavors is his interest in childhood adolescence. Over the last dozen years, he has moved among different mediums and shifting forms of diffusion, Henwood has remained focused on youth, its experiences and consequences. Take, for instance, his gouache portraits, which have been shown recently at the ICA in London, Browyn Keenan Gallery in New York, and Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica. These large, generally close-up views, which look to have been painted partly with nail polish, show mostly boys and girls in early adolescence. Their faces range from pustulant and wary (Daniel Age 14 Manchester) to the observant and vulnerable (Sophie Age 14 London) to the rambunctions (Joey Age 14 Las Vegas). It seems no accident that the figures' ages are specified in the titles of the paintings. Those numbers not only tell us that Henwood is acutely conscious of how old his subjects are but also remind us of the utter distinctiveness of each year of teenage development (think how little sense it would make to give the specific age of sitters in their thirties or forties). What's also striking about these portraits is how straightforward they are, not only in their style, which updates the posterlike brightness of Alex Katz's paintings with photographic detail and emotional nuance, but also in their obvious concern with capturing an individual face and personality. 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 editorializing, nor does he seek to subsume their individuality into a world of media constructs.

Henwood has been exploring the nonadult world since the late 1980s, when he authored a series of children's books that were issued by the prestigious New York publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Typical of these is A Piece of Luck (1990), an economically conveyed, visually dynamic parable of a man who is defeated by his own greed. The projects Henwood next undertook were less conventional. In 1993 he launched an illustrated periodical called Purr, which included contributions from figures such as erotic photographer Richard Kern and underground musician/author Henry Rollins. That year he founded a record label that issued recordings by musicians such as Sonic Youth and Iggy Pop, and he produced and directed Alice, a short film with a score by British punk-pioneer-turned-film-score-composer Barry Adamson. Since then Henwood has started a magazine (also named Alice) that chronicles how childhood is represented in art and the media and has become a publisher of artist's books and an occasional exhibition curator. He's even turned his hand to designing wallpaper. For the last several years he has also been working intensively (as creator, coproducer, and cowriter) on the project that is the focus of this exhibition, the animated film Johnny Pumpkin. More

Raphael Rubinstein is a senior editor at Art in America.

1. Christian Haye, "Simon Henwood," in White Kitten, ed. Mary Barone (London: Arts & Commerce, 2000), unpaginated.
2. Peter Applebome, "No Room for Children in a World of Little Adults," New York Times, 10 May 1998, Week in Review section.


Hammer Projects are made possible by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support is provided by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and Peter Norton Family Foundation.


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