DAVID HAMMONS

 

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This seems to be what?s going on in the famous street piece Bliz-aard Ball Sale (1983). The photos portraying Hammons with his neatly arranged rows of snowballs for sale are probably the most frequently reproduced images in the artist?s oeuvre. The piece has become iconic, the single ephemeral work ? a work that is essentially about ephemerality ? that has come to stand for his entire practice. As it comes down to us in documentation, it is a portrait of the artist as an anonymous and disreputable pedlar, an absurdist street hustler. Hammons? notion of an artist includes a constant flirtation with notions of the illicit and the fraudulent ? the ever-present suggestion that the whole business might be a scam. What, after all, could be more of a scam than selling snowballs in winter?

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Much of his work reflects his commitment to the civil rights and Black Power movements. A good example is the early Spade with Chains (1973), where the artist employs a provocative, derogatory term, coupled with the literal gardening instrument, in order to make a visual pun between the blade of a shovel and an African mask, and a contemporary statement about the issues of bondage and resistance. This was part of a larger series of "Spade" works in the 1970s, including "Bird" (1973), where Charlie Parker is evoked by a spade emerging from a saxophone, "Spade," a 1974 print where the artist pressed his face against the shape leaving a caricature-like imprint of Negroid features.

In 1980, Hammons took part in Colab's ground-breaking The Times Square Show, which acted as a forum for exchange of ideas for a younger set of alternative artists in New York. His installation was made of glistening scattered shards of glass (from broken bottles of Night Train wine).

Other works play on the association of basketball and young black men, such as drawings made by repeatedly bouncing a dirty basketball on huge sheets of clean white paper set on the floor; a series of larger-than-life basketball hoops, meticulously decorated with bottle caps, evoking Islamic mosaic and design; and Higher Goals (1986), where an ordinary basketball hoop, net, and backboard are set on a three-story high pole - commenting on the almost impossible aspirations of sports stardom as a way out of the ghetto.

Through his varied work and media, and frequent changes in direction, Hammons has managed to avoid one signature visual style. Much of his work makes allusions to, and shares concerns with minimalism and post-minimal art, but with added Duchampian references to the place of Black people in American society.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hammons

© Georgina Rowlands, all rights reserved