Lena Henke Sculpts the Surreal From the Mundane

At Galeria Pedro Cera, Lisbon, the artist’s installations play with perspective and memory

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BY Bárbara Borges de Campos in Reviews | 28 OCT 20

At the heart of Lena Henke’s solo exhibition, ‘Ice to Gas’, at Galeria Pedro Cera, is The Holy Trinity or Three Points in Time (all works 2020), a large installation mirroring a surreal family constellation. Comprised of a utility pole (her father), a yellow Hills Hoist outdoor drying rack (her mother) and a rust-hued sculpture of a toddler (Henke as a child), the three elements are interconnected by various elastic cords or what the artist refers to in an interview accompanying the show as ‘lifelines’. The infant’s right leg has been substituted by an inverted Chrysler Building, while her left arm has morphed into a horse’s hoof.

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Lena Henke, The Holy Trinity or Three Points In Time, 2020, iron rack, iron pole, and a Forton and steel baby sculpture, variable dimensions. Courtesy: the artist, Galeria Pedro Cera, Lisbon, and LAYR, Vienna; photograph: Bruno Lopes

These chimerical embodiments of the artist’s autobiography and childhood memories have appeared in earlier works, such as City Lights (Dead Horse Bay) (2016) – a bronze cast of the Manhattan skyline in the shape of a horse’s head. Here, however, with its allusion to Christian symbolism, The Holy Trinity or Three Points in Time mythologizes Henke’s family as a collation of urban idols; reliquaries for the artist’s reimagined memories.

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Lena Henke, ‘Ice to Gas’, 2020, exhibition view, Galerie Pedro Cera, Lisbon. Courtesy: the artist, Galeria Pedro Cera, Lisbon, and LAYR, Vienna; photograph: Bruno Lopes

In the second gallery, the equestrian motif resonates in a series of ceramic hooves displayed on orange plinths. Inspired by Lisbon’s 18th-century Águas Livres Aqueduct, these supports anchor the installation to its location. Likewise, the sculptures’ titles (e.g. Water Doesn’t Run and Water, a Luxury Object) hint at the city’s reliance on water, while the untitled series of blue-painted wall tiles references the Portuguese ceramic tradition of azulejo. Two mirrors placed at either end of the installation serve to magnify its length illusorily, creating a synonymous effect to Henke’s credo in the show’s accompanying text: ‘Fuck with my perspective, transmogrify my nostalgia.’ Informed by the artist’s biography and her desire to reimagine the architecture of cities, ‘Ice to Gas’ casts the surreal in the mundane.

Lena Henke‘Ice to Gas’ runs at Galeria Pedro Cera, Lisbon, until 31 October 2020.

Main image: Lena Henke, The Holy Trinity or Three Points In Time, 2020, iron rack, iron pole, and a forton and steel baby sculpture, variable dimensions. Courtesy: the artist, Galeria Pedro Cera, Lisbon, and LAYR, Vienna; photograph: Bruno Lopes

Bárbara Borges de Campos is a writer based in Berlin, Germany.

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