tony hernandez was born in Atlanta in 1964 and has been painting professionally since 1988. while he is a southern artist, his works are far from the region. his subject matter delves into the lives of children of the holocaust, as well as those who struggled through the great depression, especially in the ghettos of the bronx where his grandparents lived. he is haunted by photographs of these children, often being consumed by the images until he puts pigment to canvas. hernandez conveys the worlds that children create for themselves when they feel powerless by the fallacies of adults. with effervescence and symbolism, his paintings of preadolescent children wrestle with two themes: powerlessness and imagination. this tango creates a realm where the "mind of wonder" is tangible.
“requiem of mind and wonder” reaches for both the palpable and abstract. hernandez has investigated these leitmotifs over the last several decades, working exclusively on handmade birch wood panels using the technically-demanding process of encaustic painting. while his works are simple visually, their psychological tone is complex. In these void landscapes, he portrays children unabridged, drawing on emotional gravity. With nothing to distract from the subject, the viewer is pulled into this land of childlike curiosity and fear. even with evident melancholy throughout the body of work, such as the boy in the dunce hat, reaching for his shadow, there is hope within his shadowed, crowned self. hernandez often uses doves to imply this sense of hope, as they represent a bridge from the despondent into the ethereal. with the painting of the doves sitting before a lounging girl, they seem guardian-like, protecting her from the trials that presumably surround her. in another painting, a girl adorns a deep red dunce cap while two doves perch on her forearms, depicting that thin divide between reality and imagination.
through his adroit portrayal of historical calamities and symbolism, hernandez has been contrasted with a litany of acclaimed artists, such as christian boltanski and anselm kiefer. even so, hernandez’s dexterity draws from his own instinct, which he developed after attending the art institute of atlanta as a high school student. after devoting himself to painting full-time in 1988, he distinguished his style further as he recognized that he paints for the primarily emotional connection. this disassociation from trends has allowed him to look inward before he looks outward, creating works that are overwhelming and frank. the art critic jerry cullum has said, "it’s rare to find an artist whose work functions so totally on a level that gives the subjective sensation of intellectual satisfaction without providing anything like an obvious conceptual agenda. his approach to figuration delivers a definable psychological impact, and that he does this with rather more complexity than most painters."
tony hernandez exhibits internationally and his works are in numerous public collections throughout the u.s., notably the fine arts museums of san francisco. in 2018, he will be relocating his atlanta home and studio to charlotte, nc.