Towels and Cardboard Take on ‘More Life’ in Henna Vainio’s Hands

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Installation view of Henna Vainio's 'More Life,' at Ratio 3. (Courtesy of Ratio 3)

It’s the last week to catch a number of notable shows (Richard Learoyd at Fraenkel Gallery, Hayal Pozanti at Jessica Silverman, Andrew Chapman at Et al.’s Mission Street location), but definitely definitely don’t let the lights go down on 2018 without stopping by Ratio 3 for a dose of Henna Vainio’s More Life. The process of imbuing inanimate objects with “more life” is, in Vainio’s hands, a magical one.

Henna Vainio, 'Terry,' 2017.
Henna Vainio, 'Terry,' 2017. (Courtesy of Ratio 3)

Wall works made from plaster, pigment and fiberglass bear the human-like names of various textiles—some familiar (serge, terry), others more obscure (Georgette, Harris, Linsey). And up close, each reveals a delightfully intricate surface created by casting a towel, what looks like fine wale corduroy, or another seriously un-castable fabric in all its fuzzy, foldy glory.

In the gallery’s largest space, these near-rectangles of various lively colors surround three upright sculptures—extra tall and slender figures, their “knees” crossed or pinched closely together. Again, bonus points for up close viewing. Each set of Legs, as the sculptures are called, dissolve into their original forms: cleverly shaped pieces of cardboard, corrugated side out.

And in the gallery’s final space, unlit for the occasion, Vainio presents an arrangement of five slumpy lamps, glowing from within like a bizarro mushroom field. With these pieces, Vainio closes a circle within her own practice: a corrugated cardboard shape becomes a plaster cast that returns to utilitarian functionality. It's fitting that such an aha moment would come in a room of light bulbs.

You’ll walk out of Ratio 3 with a bit more life in your step.


'More Life' is on view at San Francisco's Ratio 3 (2831A Mission St.) through Dec. 21, 2018. Details here.