Hammons, the current installation at L&M Arts, is the first gallery show of the artist’s new work presented in New York since 2002’s “Concerto in Black and Blue” at Ace Gallery.
Born in 1943 in Springfield, Illinois, David Hammons studied art in the mid to late Sixties in Los Angeles. He now lives in New York and Rome with his wife, Chie – his creative partner and collaborator for this work.
Hammons’s oeuvre is most closely associated with the black experience in America, particularly in an urban environment. It ranges from installations and performances to videos and sculpture. Some of his most well known work includes found material such as bottle caps and basketball hoops as well as prints made of the artist’s body on paper. More recent work involves Hammons bouncing a basketball coated in dirt on paper. In all of Hammons’s different creative outlets, his wry humor and unique perspective are the common thread.
Hammons’s artistic choices are deliberate and considered – he purposefully chose the location and timing of this current installation. However, there is always an improvisational quality to the process. Aesthetic decisions are often made as the work is being installed, instead of following a strict pre-designed model or plan, allowing the dialogue between the work and the gallery space to develop organically.
The fur coats, a favorite choice of cold weather garb for the doyennes of the gallery’s Upper East Side neighborhood, become the canvases for the exhibition. These “canvases,” made of mink, wolf, chinchilla, etc., offer a glimpse of the timeline of post war-art, echoing artists that came before, artists who are frequently shown at L&M: Pollock, de Kooning and Klein among others.
Holding the show in the winter months ensured the opportunity for fur clad visitors to mingle with these paintings – art and the viewer become one in the same. The fur, “found material” on the Upper East Side, is both a statement about the insular wealth of the neighborhood and the blue-chip art world, as well as the oppositional insular world of the animal rights movement.
Further, the placement of the work is critical. The front gallery space is purposefully left empty, forcing the viewer to go in search of the experience (this act of discovery sends the viewer to the back room of the first floor and up to the second floor as well). The fur draped dress forms are intentionally set in a seemingly random pattern – they are not evenly placed or paced throughout the gallery. The assumptions and expectations of how a typical show should be hung are rejected, intentionally throwing the viewer off-balance. Immediately the tone is set that nothing should be taken for granted.
“Hammons” leads us on a journey into a different point of view. This viewpoint is new to some or, for others, one that was forgotten long ago – the one where we never took things for granted and we understood the difference between actively seeingthe world around us, as opposed to passively lookingat it.
In David Hammons’s words, “I’m not here to entertain you.” No, maybe not, but he does make us think, and in that he always succeeds.