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Aspen Art Museum


Lena Henke: You and your vim

Dec 15, 2023-Apr 7, 2024

A new exhibition by New York–based artist Lena Henke (b. 1982) crowns the rooftop of the Aspen Art Museum. The central sculpture, a towering bronze outline of a woman, can be pushed and set in motion, circling like the hands of a clock or the searching needle of a compass. Its vibrant red hue stands in luminous contrast to the alpine backdrop.

Lena Henke has long studied the relationship between figure and environment, initiating sculptural and psychological explorations of bodies as they relate to the built world. Previous works feature fantastical maps of cities, casts of body parts, and refuse from urban environments. Nature, too, finds its place in Henke’s practice, which often alludes to landscape, horses, and equestrian culture. Within these explorations of place and personhood lies a negotiation of desire, dominance, and submission. Where does one fit? Who is in control?

The jocular female protagonist of You and your vim is a riff on a drawing by French illustrator and author Tomi Ungerer, and first appeared in Henke’s 2017 exhibition, THEMOVE. In the gallery, the doorway between the figure’s legs framed a souvenir photograph of New York City’s iconic Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center. At the Aspen Art Museum, a new iteration of Henke’s heroine confronts the American West, set before Aspen Mountain. “I like to activate sculptures,” says Henke. “I’m interested in movement and weight and the connection to ground. That brings me from the white cube [of the gallery] to the outdoors and public spaces.” Here, visitors are encouraged to rotate the sculpture, its stilettoed foot hovering just over the terrace with magnetic tension.

Four new leather paintings hang from adjacent walls and windows of the rooftop architecture, surrounding the sculpture like cardinal points, bridging the interior and exterior of the museum’s top floor. Each work sees an image of feet burned into its surface. The frames mimic trail map stands, aids in navigating nature. At the edge of the rooftop, an expansive mirror reflects the legs of visitors as they move around the terrace, retaining their gaze within its perimeter, disrupting the commanding view of the mountain slopes.

The exhibition’s title implies an address to an unknown recipient. What is my vim? How is my enthusiasm understood? Within this gyre of provocation, Henke tempts us with momentum.

Lena Henke: You and your vim is organized by Simone Krug, Curator, and Daniel Merritt, Director of Curatorial Affairs.

Aspen Art Museum exhibitions are made possible by the Marx Exhibition Fund. General exhibition support is provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Visiting Artist Fund. Additional support is provided by the Aspen Art Museum National Council.