INSIDE/OUT

Inside/Out 

Venue: Adaptation, 39th & Locust St., Philadelphia, PA

Over-flowing day dreams, night visions, occult shivers and sounds seeping through cracks in the floor…

This comprehensive exhibition showcases selections in various medium from the ongoing five-year project ‘Drew and the Medicinal Pen’. Match-Book (drawings), TV (graffiti work), Love/Hate NY (photography), Film, Video, Posters, Dream Log (writings/drawings), as well as a LIVE performance of music associated with this project (in anticipation of a US tour commencing August 2008) will be represented in this exhibition.

Participating Artists and Performers

Drew + the Medicinal Pen, Drew Henkels, Anna Morsett, Missy Liu, Brendan Pezzoli

*This exhibition will be traveling to The Potion Gallery (Brooklyn, NY)*

“Inside/Out: Drew and the Medicinal Pen at Adaptation”

July 5, 2008
by Katrina Kuntz

It is difficult to write about art as honest as Drew Henkels’s.  His drawings and his writings, including song lyrics and general musings, offer small but alluring and brilliant glimpses into the private world of the artist.  Neither forced nor heavy-handed like the art that nowadays saturates both the gallery system and the market, work from Henkels’s on-going multidisciplinary project, “Drew and the Medicinal Pen,” originates in so natural and personal a place that it is shocking in its rarity and creativity. The problem with evaluating such art is it can feel like picking on a guy who wears his heart upon his sleeve.  But, Henkels is the kind of artist whose passion doesn’t outstrip his intelligence and whose tendency towards introspection is tempered with a stern dose of reality.  His art is without pretension or agenda but is fueled by an urgent need to put to paper his thoughts and experiences.  What gets preserved in the process are hopes, desires, fears, and fantasies that too often go unnoticed or underappreciated but which give deeper meaning to life.

Dream Logs, a series of ink on paper drawings and writings excerpted from Henkels’s journal, is the repository of his autobiographical reflections.  The small, intimate works have an intuitive impulse, almost a rawness, to them.  His line work fluctuates between thin and delicate contours and steady, heavy strokes depending upon his state of mind while his script can undulate across the page, climaxing in tangles, or strictly align with the pale grid of the graph paper.  Misspellings and crossed out words betray not only the fluidity between Henkels’s mind and hand but also his intensity and a fidelity to instinct.  In less talented hands, Dream Logs would be nothing more than a collection of sophomoric diary entries but Henkels has created a special place for recording and decoding his interior world that is at once nuanced, sensitive, and unaffected.  Through imagery that verges on the surreal (think ears that morph into brass instruments and disembodied feet perched on windowsills) coupled with spontaneous prose, Henkels’s dreams are given tangible form.  The darkest of the drawings bleed through the thin paper, weaving a complex tapestry of ghost and surface images, fancy and reality.

The aural component of Dream Logs is symbolized by an installation of nearly 70 hand-altered cassette tapes which bears the titles of what seems to be the soundtrack to Henkels’s life.  The retro look of the cassettes and their handmade labels call to mind the teenage pastime of creating mixed tapes as a stand-in for unspeakable tormented emotions and as a form of highly personal expression.  With terse titles like “A Quarter Life Crisis, 1/27” and “Carpe Diem Tomorrow, 2/05,” the installation suggests that Henkels never grew out of this pursuit, or perhaps that he still considers the mixed tape method of therapy just as effective as his “medicinal pen.”  What is evident, however, is that music, live as well as recorded, plays a central role in Henkels’s project and it is easy to see how musical improvisation and experimentation is in keeping with his drawing and writing practice.  There is more to “Drew and the Medicinal Pen”: more drawings of dismembered body parts (a recurring motif), sketches of imaginative scenarios for future projects, graffiti painted throughout New York City, icons doodled inside matchbooks, and some excellent video work that showcases Henkels’s artistic training without overwhelming his inclination towards whimsy and capriciousness.  Combined, this body of work paints a portrait of an artist who doesn’t feel the need to make art that announces itself as art.  Henkels effortlessly finds artistic possibility in the everyday and, as every honest artist should, doesn’t ask for anything in return.

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