The Artist known as David Hammons

David Hammons is a Giant in the World of Conceptual Art

Since the start of his New York art career, David Hammons has used the exclusivity of the artworld and its having excluded African-Americans from the artworld for decades as one of his major motivations for the manner of his artistic practice. He did not have his first commercial gallery show in New York City until 1991, when he was 48, at the Jack Tilton gallery. Since then he has created performances, installations, sculpture and other art objects on the highest international plane. Hammons was born in Springfield, Illinois and lived in Los Angeles before moving to New York in 1974. He is known as the supreme Anti-Artist in the manner of Marcel Duchamp, and now is considered to be the most important African-American artist in the world. His most recent show at L&M Arts on the New York’s Upper East Side was a crowd pleasing yet head scratching sensation. He wrapped garbage bags over paintings and pushed a rank looking amour in front of one of them, causing the viewer to not be able to see the painting behind it in full.

David Hammons ripped plastic trash bags and plastic sheets with holes covering abstract paintings were the sensation of the New York City artworld earlier this year.

David Hammons at L&M Arts

David Hammons’ faux painting

Another room of David Hammons’ paintings at L&M Arts

And yet another room of David Hammons paintings at L&M Arts

From a 1986 Interview with David Hammons:

 1. I CAN’T STAND ART ACTUALLY. I’VE NEVER, EVER LIKED ART, EVER. I NEVER TOOK IT IN SCHOOL.

2. WHEN I WAS IN CALIFORNIA, ARTISTS WOULD WORK FOR YEARS AND NEVER HAVE A SHOW. SO SHOWING HAS NEVER BEEN THAT IMPORTANT TO ME. WE USED TO CUSS PEOPLE OUT: PEOPLE WHO BOUGHT OUR WORK, DEALERS, ETC., BECAUSE THAT PART OF BEING AN ARTIST WAS ALWAYS A JOKE TO US.

WHEN I CAME TO NEW YORK, I DIDN’T SEE ANY OF THAT. EVERYBODY WAS JUST GROVELING AND TOMMING, ANYTHING TO BE IN THE ROOM WITH SOMEBODY WITH SOME MONEY. THERE WERE NO BAD GUYS HERE; SO I SAID, “LET ME BE A BAD GUY,” OR ATTEMPT TO BE A BAD GUY, OR PLAY WITH THE BAD AREAS AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

10. THE ART AUDIENCE IS THE WORST AUDIENCE IN THE WORLD. IT’S OVERLY EDUCATED, IT’S CONSERVATIVE, IT’S OUT TO CRITICIZE NOT TO UNDERSTAND, AND IT NEVER HAS ANY FUN. WHY SHOULD I SPEND MY TIME PLAYING TO THAT AUDIENCE?

DAVID HAMMONS 1986


David Hammons work – I saw this astounding work at the California African American museum several years ago

David Hammons work in Los Angeles before his move to NYC

David Hammons’ scupture made in Los Angeles, Spade with Chains

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“In a lovely bit of formal continuity the ball’s dark-on-light stripes were echoed in the receding rows of black hair glued on to a large, narrow, grey-brown rock in Rock Head (2000). The kind of commitment to urban cool you have to get re-shaved every week or so, it’s a hairstyle that suggests social mobility. It certainly sits well on the rock, which had an arch incised into its front for a downcast mouth and one vague indent for an eye, and which would look like a parody of Montparnasse Modernism c. 1920 even without the hair-do. Like Harlem dirt, the hair had come up from ground level: as he has been doing since the mid-1970s, Hammons used floor sweepings from a Harlem barbershop. Placed in a display case on a pointedly black plinth, the sculpture plays several angles at once; while apotheosizing the material, it plays with stereotypes of black ‘naturalness’ (why carve when a rock will do; why use a pencil when a basketball will do?) and bigoted white assessments of black intelligence.” Martin Herbert, Frieze magazine, issue 72, 2003

David Hammons scupture in New York, a basketball backboard and rim with net, garnished with Gothic fetish artifice.

David Hammons exhibition of scorched and painted on furs

David Hammons’ Admission Office – Door (1969)

David Hammons work from the late 1960’s in Los Angeles

David Hammons 1983 street Manhattan performance “Blizzard Snowballs sale”

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Bliz-aard Ball Sale (1983)

David Hammons African American flag, hung at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Higher…

Hammons How Ya Like Me Now (1988)

Hammons Hoop

David Hammons Concerto in Black and Blue at Ace gallery NYC

David Hammons

David Hammons destroyed and painted on furs exhibited in New York

David Hammons at L&M Arts

Given his disinclination to offer explanations of what he does, it may or may not be paradoxical that Hammons is considered a conceptualist. What’s clear is that the mystification inherent in his down-home version of Beuysian shamanism—conjuring spirits with chicken bones and liquor bottles, human hair and inner tubes, sweatshirt hoods and basketball hoops—has always been undercut by a healthy dose of Duchampian irony as well as the sense of disdain that is perhaps proper to a black artist operating within, adjacent to and sometimes against a very white art world. In any case, the last thing you’d expect from an artist like Hammons is a show of abstract paintings—so of course that’s what he did at L&M, albeit abstract paintings in which most of the paint was kept well out of sight.” Barry Schwabsky on David Hammons L&M Arts show, 2011

From the Summer 2011 edition of Artforum magazine:

I was watching a video on YouTube in which Ornette Coleman presents a tune called “Spring” in Germany; he tells the audience, “Follow the idea of the song, not the song itself.” He also said, “Follow the idea, not the sound.” I was impressed with that. Follow how my ideas are put together, as opposed to whether the rainbow appears or the rain comes. I use this logic a lot. It moves in the realm of poetry as opposed to the actuality that people are used to or expect.

from the August 18, 1991 edition of the Los Angeles Times, by Amelia Wallach:

“Early in the ’70s he started spending more and more time in New York. He left Southern California for good shortly after his 1974 one-man show at Cal State L.A.

I don’t go anywhere, I get pushed,” he says. “Don’t fight the feeling, as we say. From L.A. to New York. From mysticism to capitalism. I got tired of looking at the sunset.”

Last spring, Hammons had the satisfaction of turning down the Whitney Museum’s invitation to participate in its self-consciously multicultural 1991 Biennial–effectively torpedoing the exhibition’s claim to cover the top hits of the past two years. “I couldn’t wait to tell ’em no,” he says. “Their relationship with black artists has been negative since Day 1.”

And now he has received the official stamp of a “genius award” from the MacArthur Foundation. The grant, $290,000 over five years, is to enable him to do whatever it is he does however he wants to do it, no strings attached.”

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson Biography  as of November 2011
Vincent Johnson lives and works in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited at Soho House, Los Angeles, Palihouse, West Los Angeles, Las Cienegas Projects, LAXART, the P.S. 1. Museum, the SK Stiftung, Cologne, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Adamski Gallery of Contemporary Art, Aachen, Locust Projects, Miami, the Sacramento Center for Contemporary Art, 18th Street Arts, Santa Monica and the Boston University Art Gallery. His photographic works engage both significant and neglected historical and contemporary cultural artifacts and is based on intensive research of his subjects. Upcoming are projects in Europe and Los Angeles. His most recent work, a series of nine grayscale paintings, was shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles in the group show entitled The Optimist’s Parking Lot. He will have a new cutout collage work in the upcoming The Bearden Project at the Studio Museum in Harlem, opening in New York on November 10, 2011. He also participated in the inaugural edition of Pulse Fair Los Angeles with Las Cienegas Projects. He is also participating in Locust Projects Miami’s annual benefit exhibition in the late fall of 2011. He is a member of the Advisory Board of THE WINTER OFFICE, Copenhagen.

Two at Night (2012) from the Cosmos suite of paintings, 30×40 inches, Oil on canvas

Golden Dream (2012), part of the Cosmos Suite of paintings, 30×40 inches, oil on canvas

California Toilet, Filthy Light Switch (2010) by Vincent Johnson. Archival Epson print (Private Collection, Miami, Florida)

Vincent Johnson, Nine Grayscale Paintings (2011), Beacon Arts Center, Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson – first stage of grayscale paintings – studio view, Los Angeles, 2011

Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1986.   He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications.

http://vincentjohnsonart.com/

LANYArtiststudio@gmail.com

Soviet Space (2009) by Vincent Johnson

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9 thoughts on “The Artist known as David Hammons

  1. Everyone who knew David Hammons in LA in the 60’s knew he was destined for greatness. There was never any question that he was the brightest and the best artist in among his cohort – and they were a talented group of artists. Racism in America is the only reason it took until 1991 for David to get a one man show in NYC.

    • What you say is the stone cold reality truth. Other Los Angeles African-American artists who have worked for decades such as John Outterbridge are only now working without devoted New York dealers. The Wall Street Journal did a story on him recently. Noah Purifoy, who gets talked about but seemingly never shown commercially, will have a posthumous retrospective at LACMA in 2014. The Now Hear This exhibition at the UCLA Hammer Museum was curated by Columbia University art history professor Kelli Jones (daughter of Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka), and will be traveling to MoMA PS1. The exhibition is one of the few which tell the story of Los Angeles African-American art in a major institutional museum setting in LA.

  2. i love david he is one of the best artist on the planet.we black artist have it twice as hard in canada,not only are we ignored by the white galleries we are also ignored by our own piers..we have a bad dose of crab in a barrel syndrome.i’m trying to make some contact with other likeminded artist in the states..thiis is an s.o.s..

      • Hello Hollis.
        I was most recently in a 5 artist group show at Another Year in LA in West Hollywood for months. No representation at this time. Was represented by Lemonsky Project in Los Angeles and Miami for about 5 years. The gallery closed.

        Vincent

  3. Pingback: "Is it really you that I see or is it a mere dream?" » Archive » David Hammons Bliz-aard Ball Sale (1983)

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