Modernism is presenting “Requiem of Mind and Wonder” by American artist Tony Hernandez in San Francisco.

Tony Hernandez is sensitive towards children and it disturbs him to see the images of children who were perished in the holocaust. He is also troubled by the images of boys and girls who struggled through the Great Depression, especially in the ghettos of the Bronx where his grandparents lived. Instilled with a rich symbolism, Hernandez’s paintings of pre-adolescent boys and girls deal with powerlessness, as well as the “mind of wonder” that sustains children even in the darkest hours. Over the past several decades, Hernandez has single-mindedly explored these themes, working exclusively on handmade birch wood panels using the technically-demanding process of encaustic painting (beeswax and damar crystal emulsion) fusing oil pigment with fire into the emulsion in a staining technique.

With a deceptively simple visual vocabulary, depicting children adrift in a featureless landscape, he creates vignettes of a subtle psychological power. In one recent painting, a boy wears a dunce cap, the symbol of incompetence, yet his shadows show him wearing a crown. Another new painting depicts a girl playing a violin to a dunce-capped dove. In his sensitivity to his subject matter, Hernandez has drawn comparisons to Christian Boltanski, while his clever communication of historical travesties through personal symbolism has been compared to the paintings of Anselm Kiefer. Hernandez’s works are in numerous public collections throughout the U.S., notably the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Apart from that, his works are in private collections of celebrities like Jennifer Anniston, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins among others.

This exhibition will run through August 19, 2017 at MODERNISM, 724 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94109.