Henry Riekena overlaps and interweaves multiple compositions to form a cohesive yet sporadic painting that is full of gesture and energy. He often repeats the same geometric shape—typically triangles, squares, and lines—throughout his work. This repetition allows his images to create a dynamic, “moving” field because it forces the viewer’s eye to constantly circulate around the canvas. Riekena draws inspiration from the art historical movements of formal abstraction and abstract expressionism, which often emphasize the pure color and rhythm of the brushstrokes as the subject of the work. However, more contemporary movements involving street art and graffiti also heavily influence his process; he recently began using graffiti markers to produce the sleek, textured lines on the painting’s surface. Riekena states, “Once the painting is complete, I am interested in the total experience that a viewer can have with the work…” He argues that the scale, presentation, and the environment play a crucial role in the viewer’s perception. It is his hope that when viewers spend time with his work, they clear their minds in order to reach a meditative state of presentness to allow for different interpretations and emotional responses to his paintings.
Henry Riekena received his BS in Mechanical Engineering and Fine Art from Tulane University. His work has been widely exhibited throughout the Bay Area and in 2009 he participated in the Biennale in Chianciano, Italy. In 2011, he produced a large painting for display at Burning Man, which involved the creation of a specific tent for an immersive viewing of the work. He currently teaches Industrial Design at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. He is also a part of American Steel Studios in Oakland and is currently on the curatorial team that produces exhibitions from the collective gallery space.