John Henry

John Henry is known worldwide for his large-scale public works of art. His works grace numerous important museum, corporate, public and private collections as well as the collections of many American cities and states. His works are also prominently exhibited in the public collections of various European and Asian municipalities. Mr. Henry has shown his work extensively since the early 1960’s and exhibits a definitive trademark style that is recognized internationally. His works range in scale from small tabletop pieces to some of the largest contemporary metal sculptures in the world. His recent exhibitions of monumental scale works include “New Monuments” at the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, Missouri and “Back on the Plaza” on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. This fall he is the featured artist in the Vancouver Biennale in British Columbia.

Mr. Henry attended the University of Kentucky, University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received a Ford Foundation grant, the Edward L Ryerson Fellowship and earned a BFA. He received an Honorary Doctor of Arts from the University of Kentucky in 1996. As a visiting professor of sculpture, Mr. Henry taught at University of lowa, University of Wisconsin, University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Art at Chattanooga State College.  In 2002 he received the Governor’s National Award in the Arts from the State of Kentucky and in 2004, the Mayor’s Award of Distinction in the Arts from the City of Chattanooga.  Other recent honor’s include recognition on the floor of the Tennessee State Senate in 2004 and the 2005 honorary renaming of North Cermak Road “John Henry Way” by the City of Chicago in recognition of his contributions to Public Art on the local and national levels.

As an active participant in promoting the arts Mr. Henry has served as a

member of the Advisory Board of Lawyers for the Creative Arts in Chicago, a coordinator and advisor to the City and the Art Institute of Chicago for the "Sculpture in the Parks Exhibition" and as an advisor to the Art Council of Greater New Orleans for the "Super Sculpture New Orleans" Exhibition. Since 1991 he has been on the Board of Trustees of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, serving as Board member at large, Chairman of the Programs Committee and member of the Executive committee. Since 1996 he has served the Board of the International Sculpture Center in various leadership roles, serving as Chairman for two years through the spring of 2002. Mr. Henry has lectured extensively on the role of art in public places and is known as a strong advocate of all of the arts, not only sculpture.

Mr. Henry was a founding member of ConStruct, the artist-owned gallery that promoted and organized large-scale sculpture exhibitions throughout the United States. Other founding members include Mark diSuvero, Kenneth Snelson, Lyman Kipp and Charles Ginnever. Mr. Henry continues to curate exhibitions in the United States and in Europe, drawing on his nationally recognized expertise regarding sculptors and their work. He is now the Curator of the Outdoor Museum of Art at Chattanooga State College, Chattanooga, Tennessee.


For four decades, John Henry has been at the forefront of American sculpture.  As evidenced by the work in this exhibition, he continues to be extremely prolific, pushing to new limits the linear forms that have defined his work since the pre-ConStruct days in Chicago in the early 1970s. While John began his career as a painter in the early 1960s, and has worked with a variety of sculptural materials over the years, his first love and the primary materials of his oeuvre are welded aluminum and steel, as represented in this body of work. The piece in this exhibition, modest in size relative to Henry’s internationally recognized monumental work, equally embodies his remarkable sense of scale and balance. Using the linear elements of his pieces as lines in space, he is masterful at finding that place of equilibrium that often suggests a defiance of gravity. Each piece, regardless of its weight, suggests lightness and a sense of motion as part of the viewer’s experience, not unlike the monumental Illinois Landscape #5, located at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park at Governors State University, or Alachua, located on the campus of the University of Florida.

In recent years, John Henry has spent a considerable amount of time in Europe, and much like an aesthetic sponge, this reflective time has found its way through his hands and heart into his work. The Cathedral Series, inspired by the grand cathedrals John explored in Italy, gave birth to a number of pieces, while more grounded with massive vertical trapezoid shapes, still emanate the spiritual emotion experienced in cathedrals, that of ascendance into the heavens – a kind of balance, if you will, between our humanity and our relationship with the universal.

While identified by some in the 1970s as part of the Minimalist Movement, the geometric forms that have defined John Henry’s work for more than thirty-five years have their aesthetic and historical base in Constructivism. John has a supreme commitment to the materiality of his work, and an unwavering insistence on maintaining the integrity of the process and the materials in developing his visual vocabulary. While his aesthetic sensibilities flow from his creative intuition and life experience, John has always been devoted to researching technique and process in an effort to more successfully realize his vision, an artist unafraid of contemporary technology and the information age. Consequently, John Henry’s impact on monumental sculpture and the notion of public art in general in America during the past four decades is unparalleled.

The work in this exhibition reaffirms John Henry’s place in American sculpture. An artist secure in the visual language he continues to explore with a passion that has not waned with time; quite the contrary, a passion that is fueled with his zest for life and the exploration of his life’s experience through his art. There is a powerful maturity and sensibility in this body of work that reflects an artist who continues to deliver some of the most important sculpture being created at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Text by Ken Rollins, Interim Executive Director – Tampa Museum of Art – Tampa, Florida