If you’ve stepped foot anywhere on the Strip, you’ve likely seen the work of Brian and Jennifer Henry. At any given moment, the artist couple’s digital and conceptual pieces can be viewed within Las Vegas’ casinos and galleries and even on its streets. They’re a local power couple, no doubt, driven by their cerebral design aesthetic, intense work ethic and unwavering support for one another.
With their joint business Brian Henry Design—Jennifer, 37, is the creative director; Brian, 40, is the principal—they have created content for the SLS, the Cosmopolitan, Aria, Fashion Show Mall and beyond, including animations for the highest-resolution LED screen in New York City’s Times Square and work for clients like Swarovski and Samsung. Separately, they continue to create visually striking and thought-provoking art in our Valley and beyond.
“We didn’t start making artwork or doing anything other than decorating our house until we had been in a relationship for seven years,” Jennifer explains one October afternoon inside Downtown’s Cube gallery, home to her recent exhibit Supercell. “I think we always had a good way of communicating, and it begins with that. A lot of what we’re doing is a collaborative experience from beginning to end.”
That both of them have been so successful is a testament to the thousands of hours they’ve put in over the years. “Work is really important, and I think we’re willing to make the same kinds of sacrifices,” she adds. “We really value each other’s strengths, and we try to aid and assist each other in the ways that we’re not strong. We’re really supportive of each other’s ideas, but we’re super-critical, too.”
The Henrys will celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary in May, but their relationship dates back much further, to 1995, when they met while working at now-shuttered slot machine company Anchor Gaming. For more than 15 years, the pair have been heavily involved in Las Vegas’ art world, creating culture from the inside. In 2003, the Henrys launched Capital H gallery inside Downtown’s Arts Factory, showing a new collection of their work every month for three years. They now jokingly refer to it as their “art boot-camp” phase.
Eventually Brian, a self-taught designer, began working at the local sign company YESCO, where he spent 15 years creating indoor and outdoor signs for casinos and resorts. His work has been critical in the city’s evolution from neon playground to vast, digitized wonderland. And while neon is still near and dear to Brian’s heart, creating custom motion graphics for high-resolution displays like the giant Harmon corner LED sign on Las Vegas Boulevard has been a groundbreaking achievement. With a pixel count of 7,000, his revolutionary design is one of the largest LED displays in the world.
“We’re really lucky we’ve always developed in similar ways,” Jennifer says of the pair’s artistic growth over the years. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in English from UNLV in 2002, Jennifer launched her vintage clothing boutique Flock Flock Flock, which later evolved into an alternative-couture concept that utilizes unconventional materials to make flowing, fashion-forward art garments that have shown in galleries and at New York Fashion Week, South by Southwest and elsewhere.
Inside the Cube, the Henrys talk me through the keys to their success, including the way their personal and business relationships work. “There is no balance,” Brian laughs—but in their case that hasn’t been a bad thing. Their intertwined work pursuits fuel their creative interests. And it doesn’t just stop at art. As proponents of the local music scene, they can often be found at live shows Downtown or traveling and exploring different aesthetic scenes. At the core of their collective interests: experiencing new and unusual things, from the material and digital art realm to philosophy, music and film. They complete each other’s sentences, boast about their partner’s accomplishments and demonstrate strong mutual adoration and respect for one another. Yet, even as they work and live in close proximity, the Henrys maintain very distinct artistic identities.
At first glance, the walls inside Jennifer’s Supercell exhibit appear to be white, but they’re actually painted to resemble the show’s focal point: iridescent, dichroic cellophane, for which Jennifer has become known. The colors are so subtle that the room mimics the transparent, pastel-colored material. Within the walls of the Cube, Jennifer highlights what she does best—capturing an object or an idea’s essence and conveying her own perspective in vivid color. In the middle of the room, three transparent yellow chairs hang from the ceiling, and a fourth sits on the floor—a tongue-in-cheek nod to Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs.
“So much of what happened in this room was largely facilitated by Brian,” Jennifer says. Even the name of the show was Brian’s suggestion, taken from an extreme weather phenomenon in which an organized thunderstorm has several distinct parts. By pulling back the veil on her process, each step has become a piece of art. “You never know what’s happening inside of a supercell, but it’s all connected,” Jennifer says. (Supercell closed last month, but a satellite version, titled Singlecell, is open through November 11 at UNLV’s Grant Hall Gallery).
In 2016, Brian created a new digital-motion graphic for 365 straight days—each month featuring a different Pantone hue—and logged his creations on his Instagram account, @bri4nh3nry. And while those whimsical, stimulating designs are the result of Brian’s tedious process, it’s also a product of the couple’s combined brainstorming strength. In one of his creations, a fuzzy brown rocking chair grows long spiky hair—that was Jen’s idea.
“I can just mention some half-baked thing to Jen, like, What if we do something with clowns and stars in the sky? And Jen will develop it into this magical thing,” Brian says. “Even if I have an awful idea, somehow she has a way to make it all make sense. … She knows enough technical stuff to be dangerous. Her ideas always materialize beautifully.”
Brian’s latest exhibit, Perfect Circle, will debut at the Cube on November 2. A continuation of his Machina Ex Machina series, it evokes Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave, challenging our expectations and perceptions through a custom computer program that draws images at random.
“The computer is the artist,’ Brian explains. “Each experience with it is entirely unique, it’s unrepeatable, but at the same time it’s also instantly recognizable.”
Jennifer cuts in, glowing proudly as she recalls Brian’s accolades. “For somebody who started as a traditional artist—a painter, hand renderer, photographer, videographer—I think it’s interesting to be so drawn to an idea that removes his influence,” she says.
Although he’s not physically drawing each work in Perfect Circle, the outcome feels both aesthetically pleasing and uniquely methodical—something for which Brian has become known. Like Supercell, it’s the kind of show that challenges viewers’ preconceived notions of what art is and isn’t—a concept into which the Henrys continuously delve through their individual and collective pursuits.
Their fast-paced, trend-and-culture savvy lifestyle takes teamwork, but they’ve been “problem-solving for so many years that we feel comfortable approaching the unfamiliar.,” Jennifer says.
The two artists are currently working on additional content for the Cosmopolitan and other local clients as Jennifer finishes her MFA. And while future directions of their artistic reach might be impossible to predict, one thing is certain: The Henrys are already woven deeply into our visual landscape. Like the neon that once defined Las Vegas, whatever they think of next is sure to have a lasting impact.