A warehouse in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn contains a 3,000-square-foot white inflatable bounce house whose notched surface looks like the pattern of padded cells in traditional mental hospitals. You navigate the bounce house’s labyrinth to reach a room where the walls are covered in artworks that look as if they’re made of paint, but closer inspection reveals that they’re actually technically impressive colored-pencil drawings. This sense of displacement and bafflement is part of the point and appeal of this exhibition by the Brooklyn-based artist .
Titled “Rorschach” after the classic inkblot works that helped inspire the undulating, abstract shapes in the drawings, the show, which runs through April 21, is the sixth from Hendry, who first became recognized for the hyperrealist black-and-white works she shared on Instagram. Here, Hendry discusses her colorful new work and her fascination with the Rorschach test.
What made you want to investigate motifs of insanity and psychotherapy in this show?
I’ve always been fascinated by the Rorschach test and its evolution over the years, from the Hermann Rorschach inkblot test in 1921 (and his book Psychodiagnostik) to the improvements by Samuel Beck, Bruno Klopfer, and others. That—and the fact that I desperately needed to do an abstract series—just made sense to me!
Why were you specifically drawn to the Rorschach test?
I think what makes Rorschach tests so intriguing is that, unlike questionnaires and other language-based approaches to personality assessment, you are presented with a visual task. There is a fascinating correlation of science and art, objectivity and subjectivity. Ultimately, this series is the science of artistic response as the key to personality.
The drawings are also inspired in part by squish paintings, wherein you put paint in the center of a piece of paper and fold it in half to squish it, but as rendered in your hand, they are hyperrealistic in feel. Can you speak to your combination of spontaneous inspiration with a controlled, meticulous execution?
As you say, my work is very controlled, meticulous, and serious. Making the squish paintings was so much fun and the opposite of my practice. I needed that release.
This show obviously grapples with elements of childhood. What kind of portrait of childhood would you say your show depicts?
As they say, “Never lose your childhood innocence.” I’m a big kid at heart, and life—and the art world—can get so serious and stressful. I just want people to unwind and have fun when they come to my shows. If you can’t smile, laugh, and have fun in life…then what’s the point?
Why was the bounce house an important part of this show for you, and how did you settle on its design?
The only way to view the Rorschach artworks is through the psych ward, which is the bounce house. You have to experience the psych ward before understanding the Rorschach tests. I want people to walk through the show confused. Is it a five-year-old’s birthday party with a giant bounce house? A psych ward because the bounce house is sewn in a way that replicates the padded walls of an old-school psych ward? A Rorschach test? It could be either depending on how you want to see it.