17 November 2015 – 14 February 2016

Within a few years, Lena Henke (born 1982 in Warburg, Germany, lives and works in New York City and Frankfurt am Main) developed a diverse complex of works, consisting of sculptures and installations. As laureate of this year’s GWK advancement award for fine arts, she designed new works exclusively for the Dortmunder Kunstverein, equally inspired by her Westphalian background and her adopted home New York. Between personal mythology and geographic observations, her exhibition Hellweg poses the question of the location of the self.

The title ‘Hellweg’ refers to the most substantial medieval traffic and trade route of Westphalia, extending from Duisburg via Dortmund and Paderborn up to Corvey. Lena Henke extends this path, leading through Dortmund’s inner city 50 meters away, into the outdoor space of the Kunstverein’s building. A fence made of brushwood and wire extends the vitreous exhibition space outside onto the public square around the Kunstverein and leads the visitor to a new entrance. The fragile and transparent fence is reminiscent of  membrane skin. The bound brushwood forms a tunnel – just like in the animated children’s series Once upon a time... Life, the visitor enters the body and the mindscape of Lena Henke. 

On the central wall of the Kunstverein, a painted adaptation of Joseph Beuys’ drawing Die Sprache (The language) from 1953 overlaps with Henke’s painted facial features. Henke’s portrait, entitled Kranke und Touristen (Invalids and Tourists), 2015, shows a city map of Manhattan on the inside of her head and unites earlier works and references to Land Art and city planning. Just like a kiss, both faces blend into each other. 

Another mural painting, Der Pilger (The Pilgrim), 2015, depicts the fusion of the artist’s head as a kind of flip-flop image merged with a historic medicinal etching of a human skull. Comparable to a painted memento mori from the renaissance, it can be seen as a self-reflective motif of the awareness of one’s own mortality. Surrealistic images, in which buildings or objects become animated, like those of Madelon Vriesendorp or illustrations by Tomi Ungerer and Claire Bretécher are an important inspiration here. The sculpture Dreihasenbild (Three hares picture), 2015, refers to the Three Rabbits Window of Paderborn Cathedral. Three hares jumping in a circle each share an ear, thus chasing the time in a circular fashion. The hare, bearer of various meanings in all kinds of religions, can embody rebirth and resurrection as well as fertility. Henke, however, sees more of a story that combines the universal with the personal in the form of an individual mythology. Together with the mural paintings, the brushwood fence and an extensive installation of an antique horse’s harness, Lena Henke creates a mind map of her interests in Hellweg. This organism dissolves the boundaries between body, animals, architecture and urban landscape.

Curated by Oriane Durand

The Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Westfälischen Kulturarbeit e.V. (GWK, engl.: Society for the funding of Westphalian cultural work) awards annual prizes to outstanding young artists from Westphalia-Lippe in the fields of visual arts, classical music and literature. The art award is connected with an exhibition in a renowned Westphalian exhibition house and a single catalog.

The jury for the GWK-Förderpreis Kunst 2015 consisted of Oriane Durand (Dortmunder Kunstverein), Georg Elben (Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten Marl), Benjamin Greber (GWK-Förderpreis 2011, Berlin), Jule Hillgärtner (Kunstverein Braunschweig) and Ingrid Raschke-Stuwe (freelance curator, Saerbeck).


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