Adam Henry. Overtones.

24 Mar 2023 – 29 Apr 2023

Regular hours

11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00

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CANDICE MADEY is thrilled to announce the gallery’s second solo exhibition with NY-based artist Adam Henry, Overtones. Henry’s work investigates the realms that exist beyond our senses through painting, collage, and poetic gestures. Best known for lush paintings on canvas that probe the optics of the color spectrum and light, Henry has gleaned from his studies in phenomenology and color theory that our lived experience is haunted by the ways that our brains limit and deceive us. His paintings point to this: the optical effects that he employs often fool the eye, leading us to consider other limitations to our sensory experience of reality.

In this exhibition, Henry turns his attention toward the perception of sound. Both as a producer (his second studio is a recording space) and an avid listener, Henry has long been immersed in music. His interests, as one might expect from his paintings, skew towards experimental, minimal, and avant-garde composers like La Monte Young, Pauline Oliveros, and John Cage, the latter being a key influence for the works in this show. But he also has a more fraught relationship with sound. For years, he has learned to manage a persistent case of tinnitus, a disorder that is often a result of damage to the ear, brain, or auditory nerve, which manifests as a ghostly, high-pitched ringing in the mind of the afflicted. Famously, Cage was obsessed with silence as much as he was with sound. For Henry, silence is elusive.

The sometimes-blurry distinctions between sound and silence, inchoate sounds and sounds that have been made fully manifest, and sound that is seemingly “real” and sound that is only in our heads, structure works in Overtones, which Henry has conceived as a series of experimental scores. Life Score, for example, is a musical staff printed with the instructions: “Breathe in / breathe out / and / continue for / as long as possible”. This work is played by the viewer upon reading and continues until their death. It also provides an ambient soundtrack to the rest of the exhibition in the form of the rhythmic sound of the viewer’s breath.

Score for a Conductor (Attenuated) and Symphony No. 3 "A Silent Storm" are both contributions to the history of the “graphic score”, a tradition of idiosyncratic musical notation that includes notable works by Cornelius Cardew, György Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and John Cage. The former work consists of two large canvas panels inked with lines that recall a musical staff, on which are overlaid hundreds of small pictures of gesturing hands. Its title implies that it is a pictorial guide for a conductor, though what sounds it might be designed to elicit are left up to the viewer’s imagination. The latter work, a collection of eighteen identical photographs of a landscape, have each been ripped in unique patterns that resemble lightning strikes and similarly stir the viewer’s imagination. However, the work’s broader metaphoric resonance lays in the weather phenomenon it depicts, much like a distant lighting strike is seen first and heard (in the form of thunder) only later, so too these scores are seen long before they are heard, if they are heard at all.

The poetry of silence, or, rather, of sonic absence, is explored in Aura Score in Two Parts (John Coltrane), which consists of two framed pieces of blank sheet music, which belonged to John Coltrane. A mute testament to the music that the jazz master would never write, the pages are also paradoxically pregnant with the possibility of his creative power.

A series of gesso on linen paintings, constructed from concatenating stripes of various levels of opacity, are the works in the show that most closely resemble Henry’s previous optically focused works, and are his most unorthodox scores. The paintings appear as if they could be visual records of various acoustic waves, like the cymatic patterns produced when channeling sound frequencies through a malleable medium, like water or sand. Reading them suggests a willed instance of synesthesia, transforming the visual back into sound.

Another keystone work in the show is Overtone, a small collage which is a cut-up picture of Ingrid Bergman taken by Robert Capa in rehearsals for a 1948 film. In it, Bergman looks dreamily skyward, her gaze fixed on an intervention that Henry has executed: a small circle has been cut out and rotated, so that a white section of the photo’s border now intrudes into the image itself. The “overtone” of the title refers to one of a series of harmonics that are produced in addition to the fundamental frequency of a given musical note. Some of these overtones are audible to the human ear, while others are not. In this visual metaphor, Bergman is enthralled by the appearance of a strange presence, which was previously beyond the borders of her perception. Here, then, is the show’s fundamental question: what if that which was hidden from us was suddenly revealed?

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Adam Henry


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