The Exclusive Collections Gallery in Laguna Beach hosted a meet-and-greet with native Southern Californian artist Henry Asencio this past Saturday when it displayed his entire collection of oil paintings, attracting art buyers and art lovers alike to the small gallery on Pacific Coast Highway. The event included refreshments, the exciting chance to speak with the artist himself, and a live demonstration of his artistic process — Asencio sketched a new work entirely from scratch before the eyes of intrigued attendees as they trickled in and out of the building for the entire three-hour event.
Originally from Los Angeles, Henry Asencio began his professional career in 2000, the year after he graduated from the prestigious San Francisco Academy of Art University. Since then, his work has attracted great attention, and he has been featured in such spaces as the Museum of Latin American Art and others. He is also one of six artists whose works are permanently featured and for sale at each of Exclusive Collections’ four galleries, which include second and third locations in San Diego and a fourth in Las Vegas. Krista Franz, director of the Laguna Beach gallery, said that she has been to many art shows featuring Asencio and that this night was particularly special, as he usually does not sketch live for a crowd.
Most all of Asencio’s paintings displayed by the Laguna Beach gallery are portraits of beautiful women with abstract backgrounds. They each evoke a mysterious and sensuous mood, as many feature nude women, and in almost each of them, the women are partially hidden from the viewer: some turn their backs, hiding their faces from sight others’ eyes are closed, while still others’ faces are partially hidden by loose chunks of hair. In this way, Asencio makes a significant departure from the work of earlier American painters such as John Singer Sargent, who often painted portraits of women in fine detail, facing the viewer with eyes wide open, in front of opulent interior backgrounds.
“I’ve studied the body extensively. I know all the muscles, the joints, the tendons…so when I want to go more tight, I have that ability. I don’t have that limitation. I could either go really tight visually and express the truth, or go more abstract and express what is intangible,” Asencio said.
The backgrounds of Asencio’s paintings, which feature wild brushstrokes, heavy application of paint and often a single color theme, invoke the styles of abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock. Asencio’s style is therefore defined by the combination of representational and the nonrepresentational.
“I’m always looking for balance, from the intangible to the tangible,” he continued.
The Laguna Beach Exclusive Collections Gallery’s display of Henry Asencio’s work drew large amounts of visitors from the always-busy Laguna Beach summer crowd and continued the following day with another pleasant appearance from Asencio.