The Art of Invention: Sculpture by Daniel A. Henderson

First an inventor and entrepreneur, Daniel A. Henderson has in the last four years produced a portfolio of contemporary sculpture.  His multi-ton marble sculptures depict technological advances through the ages. In doing so, Henderson explores technology’s impact on humanity. Henderson says, “Invention, like sculpture, is an artistic endeavor. Although the two disciplines utilize different mediums of expression, both share the ability to affect our perception and how we interact.”

The Art of Invention: Sculpture by Daniel A. Henderson accompanies an exhibition at Southern Oregon University’s Schneider Museum of Art that looks at the impact of the digital age through works by Henderson, Brett Phares, and Shaurya Kumar. The book’s familiar title places Henderson’s works within a broader design context and references publications including The Art of Invention: The Creative Process of Discovery and Design by Steven J. Paley and the older and comprehensive The Art of Invention: Patent Makers and Their Models. In 64 pages, Henderson’s The Art of Invention provides extensive information on each of the exhibition’s eight works. Every sculpture features up to seven pages of illustration and an accompanying text. These texts mention movies from the 1950s–60s to highlight the nostalgic aspects of Henderson’s creations.

The lavish materials used by Henderson do justice to their forms. In Fossil Fuel, Henderson makes an antique gasoline pump from Black Moroccan fossil marble  and French Rouge du Roi marble mimics a Bakelite radio in Marconi. The polished marble highlights the beauty and artistic design in functional instruments such as rotary phones and Viewmasters. By making these instruments oversized, nonoperational, and permanent, Henderson removes the object’s functionality so all that remains is the form.  Some sculptures in the book evoke nostalgia for an older era, while others weigh upon the mind as reminders of the undesired costs of technological advances. Brick, for example, looks to a physically unattractive beginning to the era of disposable, ever-changing cell phones. Henderson wants his works to spur conversation about technology. While new media art and digital art forms manipulate modern technology, Henderson manipulates classical materials such as marble and bronze to create silhouettes of modern technological forms. I think that juxtaposed with contemporary new media art, Henderson’s forms elicit the most reaction.

The artist has an extensive resume. He worked with Nobel Laureate Jack Kilby (inventor of the computer chip) and the late Japanese inventor Dr. Kazou Hashimoto (who held over 1,000 patents). Currently the president of Intellect Wireless and Pinpoint Incorporated, Henderson donated his prototype wireless picturephone and other components of a Portable Electronic Devices Documentary Collection to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.

Henderson does not stress his extensive knowledge of mobile and communications technologies through his sculptures. Although his works are often exhibited with other digital artists in addressing the societal impacts of technology, Henderson’s fabrication techniques bring him into another category of “digital artists.” These artists use CAD (computer aided design) technologies in combination with traditional stone carving techniques. Artists Kenneth Snelson, Jon Isherwood, Robert Michael Smith, and Bruce Beasley were highlighted for these techniques in a recent exhibition that toured China entitled the “Digital Stone Exhibition.” These artists, Henderson, and others are also part of the Beijing Tomorrow Art Gallery, which promotes itself as “the first and only art gallery within China dedicated solely to the promotion of Western Digital Arts.” Within the broad and eclectic “digital arts” movement, Henderson’s simple forms are easily accessible.The Art of Invention is currently on view at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

– Kara Kaczmarzyk

Book Description:

The Art of Invention: Sculpture by Daniel A. Henderson

By Robert C. Morgan, Dominique Nahas
64 pages, 24 color illustrations
Schneider Museum of Art, 2010
ISBN: 0615388175

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