An Interview with Emily Henretta
New York-based artist Emily Henretta produces work that creates a sense of the tenuous. By virtue of the diaphanous papers and textiles she employs in her pieces, the imagery always seems to be holding on by a thread or ready to unfold. Recognizable motifs like digital circuitry, patterned building materials or human forms float through her compositions. The sculptural pieces appear to be layered or built-up in a thought-process that is similar to her printed work, with forms conversing with one another in space rather then on the page. I’m really captivated by her work and thankful that Emily was generous to answer some of my questions about her practice.
When did you start printing?
I started printing in college, I took a silkscreen class at the suggestion of a friend and fell in love with both the printmaking process and the communal culture of printshops.
Did your work become more multidisciplinary during your MFA studies, or did you maintain a focus on print-based projects?
I would say I focused on the ideas that I am interested in and used printmaking as one tool to express those ideas. I did want to challenge myself to learn new techniques and become a more multidisciplinary artist. I always come back to printing, the multiple is such a weapon, you can cover so much space with one image that you make over and over again. I'm also someone who uses a lot of found imagery and printmaking is a way to translate and transform found images so they become new.
How do you see your print background informing your more expanded practice?
Printmaking is really simple at its essence, that is what I love about it. Its really just making an impression on a surface and then using that impression to make multiple images. I often print without the press, using my hands to rub paper or fabric on an inked relief block. There is something so immediate about printmaking outside of a printshop--in a way it feels really similar to casting a sculpture, you make a mold and then reproduce the negative space you have created. I think printmaking has taught me to be inventive with materials and processes but not to be too strict with adhering to the "right way" of doing things. I love printing outside, I use my back yard when the weather is nice.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with architect to build something that could incorporate some of my prints that allude to structural supports. I made a series of tube-like columns with a brick print on them that I would love to install in a building.
Where are some of your favorite spaces in New York for contemporary art or design?
I love Dia: Beacon. It is a bit outside the city but it is my favorite museum. The space is so light and simple and the works are mainly minimalism and works from the mid 20th century. It is a beautiful place to look at art and get out of the city. I also love the Editions/Artists’ Book Fair in New York, it takes place in fall and shows the latest in printmaking from small to medium sized presses. Its kind of like a printmaking convention, and I get to see all my printmaking friends and what they have been up to. I also love the Bronx Museum, I live in the Bronx and it is a great institution. Admission is free which is incredible and they put on first rate shows. Recently the Gordon Matta Clark show blew my mind.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a project that combines video and prints. I travelled to a small island in Japan a couple summers ago and shot videos there of water moving from the clouds to small rivers, through drainage pipes and finally ending up in the ocean. I am combining these videos with prints that are folded into envelope like shapes, the series is about how material moves through the world. How the junk mail from the man who previously lived in my home still arrives long after his death moves through my hands and into the recycling bin. I am also working on some photogravure prints in a shop and will hopefully get around to making an edition of them.