If Walls Could Talk

This story appears in the Spring 2015 issue of Eidé Magazine. Read it here, or click to read it in the issue below. 

Story by HAN VANCE | Photography by MICHAEL SANTINI 

Young people are now wanting to live in the city,” says Alex Brewer, best known as the artist HENSE, “and public art is a big part of that urban revitalization.”

HENSE has come a long way from first illegally painting a rooftop in 1993 as a graffiti artist. He grew up in suburban Atlanta and briefly attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond before realizing a studio and the streets were where he would better hone his craft. Years of work eventually manifested into an international reputation, while he created public works in exotic locations such as Lima, Taipei and Tokyo. His large-scale art is widely recognized throughout his hometown and also appears in smaller Southern cities such as Dothan, Ala., and Columbus, Ga. Big North American markets include Chicago, Los Angeles, Mexico City and New York. Check, check, check and check.

Riding around Atlanta, you can see the evidence of an evolutionary maturation in the work. From simply the bold block “HENSE” on older decaying buildings, to his full-scale, vivid shape-and-form walls exploding vibrantly across the city in prominent and obscure locations. Brewer painted the entire exterior of a building in this signature style on Broad Street in downtown Atlanta, adjacent to The Mammal Gallery.

In 2013, the High Museum of Art purchased a work on paper by HENSE, and that same year he created a fetching, site-specific centerpiece for a show there entitled Drawing Inside the Perimeter. Brewer also recently exhibited 32 small works on paper at the Wiregrass Museum of Art in Alabama, which “were done very quickly and are almost stud- ies for larger-scale works or murals,” he explains.

But you can still see the same original spirit of HENSE in his artistic choices, like while walking the Atlanta BeltLine, where he recently reworked a piece he was commissioned to do back in 2010 for the 22-mile loop. If you had been there over the course of its progression, you would have seen the process unfold as a new mural came to life in layers of applied color forms.

In this post-graffiti era, we are seeing real talent emerge off the streets. And to look around the modern city is to suddenly realize good art is everywhere.