Sculptural installation ‘A Brief History of Aviation’ opens at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art Sept. 28

Shown is David Henderson’s ‘A Brief History of Aviation.’ Henderson’s sculpture will be on display at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University, through Jan. 4, 2014.
Sculptor David Henderson will transform the broad, open space of the Grand Gallery in Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University, with his dramatic, site-specific installation, “A Brief History of Aviation,” on view from Sept. 28 to Jan. 4.

Composed of large, curvilinear forms constructed of fiberglass and Dacron fabric – the same materials used for ultra-light aircraft – the room-filling structure will reflect man’s longstanding fascination with flight. Henderson’s elegant, repeating shapes evoke the complex, interwoven lines found on ceiling vaults in Gothic architecture.

The Brooklyn-based artist engineers each venue’s unique installation using computer-assisted design software and then meticulously hand crafts the segments’ intricate design. Appearing almost weightless, the interconnected ribs and tissue-like skin that make up “A Brief History of Aviation” rise, separate, and converge rhythmically within the confines of the gallery architecture.

Dennis Harper, curator of collections and exhibitions at the museum, said the opportunity to showcase this work came at an opportune time during the long-range exhibition planning.

“We always strive to exhibit art in a range of media, expressing different interests and varied points of view, from different geographic regions and historic periods,” he said. “It just so happened that our long-hoped-for chance to place outdoor sculpture on site with “Out of the Box: A Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition” and “Full Circle: The Sculpture of Jean Woodham” coincided with an opportunity to bring in David Henderson. With those projects in place we decided to broaden our examination of sculpture. So this year you will see very traditional examples of figurative, or realistic, representations in the plastic arts to genre-bending installations that expand the definition of sculpture itself.”

Henderson will present a talk at the museum Thursday, Sept. 26, at 5 p.m. in the Martin-Perricone Auditorium. Seating is limited, so advanced registration is encouraged via the Eventbrite application of the museum’s web site

Henderson said he drew inspiration for “A Brief History of Aviation” from a 15th-century cathedral ceiling, but the installation itself was manifested through 21st-century technology in the form of computer-aided design programs, or CAD.

“In a CAD program, you have much more flexibility,” Henderson said. “You can chop up your model and still keep the original. You can do a video walk through or build an entire space while making changes to your design.”

The ability to adjust comes in handy, as the museum’s Grand Gallery is the sixth venue to host the traveling exhibition. Prior to delivering some materials in August, Henderson had only seen floor plans, measurements and photos of Auburn’s museum.

“I have been lucky enough to have this installation travel around a bit,” he said. “I have enjoyed meeting lots of people in different parts of the country and seeing their reactions. I am looking forward to putting it together in Auburn.”

Henderson lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Born in Atlanta, Ga., he received his bachelor’s degree at Bard College, and his master of fine art degree at Columbia University. His art has been written about in ArtNews, the Boston Globe, the New York Times and The New Yorker among other publications and has appeared in exhibitions across the United States and in Paris.

Visitors can see Henderson’s work on view Tuesdays-Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays 1-4 p.m. Admission is free courtesy of the JCSM Business Partners. The museum is closed to the public on Mondays but academic tours may be scheduled by appointment by contacting For additional information, call (334) 844-1484.

For more information about David Henderson, go to

(Contributed by Charlotte Hendrix.)

Contact: Charlotte Hendrix, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University (334) 844-7075 (, Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (