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Meet David Hendren

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Hendren.

David, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a visual artist living in Los Angeles for over a decade now. In 2009, a gallery offered me a show here. You may remember in 2009, the world fell apart (much like now). Within that context, the show seemed like a good omen. I moved to LA with the work and stayed ever since.

It took me a while to get used to Southern California, but I found my way. La is an incomplete project: there’s always room for something new. It’s a cliche to say everyone here is chasing a dream, but there’s something to that. An openness attracts people searching for a different life or new identity. This makes LA incredibly diverse and weird. Ideal for artists! Our notorious roadways, built outward from smaller townships over the decades, represent, from an aerial viewpoint, this shape-shifting identity. It’s a big, beautiful mess. I know this sounds like a rant, but it’s really a love letter. And, obtusely, this diverse character influences my art practice.

I feel very fortunate to be in the LA scene. I’ve met so many interesting people over the years. The friendships built through my practice are easily the best part of it.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No, it hasn’t been smooth, but of course, that’s what makes it worth doing. The practical struggle is juggling time, resources, and space. The latter especially challenges me given the scale of some projects. My studio is a constant flux between chaos and resolution, where space comes at a premium. But it’s satisfying to strategize these larger works within modest confines.

The large painting (Drift Painting in Seven Parts) I included in the images is a good example. The painting is on seven separate canvases, but I was only able to work on three at a time due to studio’s size. So I came up with a system of linear shifting where I’d resolve three canvases, replace two with unresolved ones, and use the remaining one as a reference. This process, in turn, affected the painting’s content. Each canvas has the same visual elements, with slight changes in placement and shape. The overall effect is a kind of floating rhythm, which spoke to the sound visualization ideas I explored at the time. I wouldn’t imagine this process, and thus the painting if I had a giant studio.

And there are ambient challenges: setting priorities, life balancing, patients. Remembering why I chose the artist’s life.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m known for sculpture, but I also make paintings, drawings, and music. My work changed over the years, but, speaking very generally, I’m interested in a multi-sensory aesthetic. My installation works, for example, incorporate architectural elements, figurative forms, light, and sound to re-imagine a space. I’m interested in structures like stages, walls, lighting fixtures. Forms that re-orient or transform the body in both liberating and constricting ways.

For my last show, I made a series of figurative works within the conventions of the “fourth wall”. This allowed me to exaggerate gestures and moods. Dancers, antagonists, singers, a minimal sound work, and dangling lights. The show felt simultaneously elevated and cloaked. An unresolved performance.

I’m now shifting focus to the political facet of built forms. Incarceration, border walls, the architecture of control. The anti-stage. All the looming fascism in the world today, made manifest in visceral and concrete ways, pushed my interest in a political direction. The pandemic threw a wrench in this project, but I’m re-imagining ways of making the work under the new reality.

I don’t know if “proud” is the right word, but I’m glad that, from an early age, I took a multi-media approach to my practice. When I was at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I was exposed to many ways of working and all kinds of media and processes. Dabbling in all that variety set in motion my current studio practice.

Sound in particular is a generative source of inspiration. I’m in a two-person music improvisation group called Belldog. Prior to lock-down, we made a number of unresolved recordings together. We remotely mixed and mastered those recordings during the initial “shelter at home” order. The fine-tuning and focus required of that project diminished my anxiety. And it was nice to work with a friend through an art project.

I know too many amazing people to feel set apart. But I will say this (and this is true for many of my friends, so more of a collective “set apart”). I met a guy the other day who grew up a few doors down from Bob Dylan in New York. 60’s luminaries hung out in the living room. In contrast, I grew up in Arkansas, a fine place, but distanced from cutting edge culture. I drove to Little Rock in high school to see an Andy Warhol print of Mick Jagger. In an age before the internet, it was a struggle to see contemporary art. I’m proud to be in the scene, having come from such a small place. But again, I know tons of people in that boat.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I’m working on paintings of local music venues. As you know, the pandemic closed many of these places, some permanently. Most small businesses are in similar straits, but as a music fan and culture-maker, these closures felt especially tragic.

Many of these places allowed me to gather imagery on-site, which helped nail-down the empty-space mood. So many amazing people work at these venues. The conversations and the stories they tell about the place are so interesting. Such a wealth of information, opinions, experience. I’m still working out the details, but I’m planning a fundraiser with the paintings in support of the venues.

And circling back to an earlier answer, the connections I’m making through this project are the best part. Early in the pandemic, I felt narrowly focused, inwardly thinking. This project got me out of my shell and back into the community (with a mask on of course).

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Image Credit:

All art photos by Joshua White Photography

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