Pioneering Bay Area artist Mike Henderson is guided by an openness and responsiveness to painting’s potential, rather than working from preconceived plans, believing that the medium “comes from the ground, through you and out you.” Working with a palette knife as much as a brush, his rough-hewn canvases testify to the physicality of his approach and his visceral relationship to material and surface. Through his highly gestural and tactile paintings, Henderson reveals a palpable connection to post-war abstraction, coupled with a defining instinct for improvisation. His lived experiences, conversations he has heard, and places he has visited—those moments that “stick to your retinas”—are all conjured up and manifested in his work through texture, form and color.
Henderson’s latest production sees him working with acrylic paint for the first time in over forty years, in a series of works on paper. If his paintings are a symphony, then these works on paper are a melody, singular but distinct: brightly hued vertical lines that recall blinds or curtains, framed and sometimes interrupted by negative space.
Henderson’s work as a painter and filmmaker has been exhibited in such distinguished institutions as Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (1971, 1970); Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (1971); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA (1980); Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA (1986); de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA (1996); di Rosa Preserve, Napa, CA (2009); and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2016). His paintings are included in the collections of the SFMOMA, CA; Oakland Museum of Art, CA; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; and Honolulu Academy of Art, HI.
In addition to painting, Henderson is an accomplished blues guitarist who has performed at music halls and festivals around the world. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973 and is a two-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Grant (1989, 1978). He was a recipient of the 2003/2004 Flintridge Foundation Award for Visual Artists.
Image: Mike Henderson, Thirds and Sixes, 2017. Oil on canvas; 48 x 96 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Haines Gallery.