|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|David Hammons was born in 1943 in Springfield, Illinois. An African-American, he is a conceptual installation artist using his found-object media as a platform for Dadaist social commentary, primarily on racial themes. Hammons places himself as an artist between Arte Povera and Marcel Duchamp. He has risen to prominence while at the same time consciously avoiding the attention of critics, galleries, and museums, preferring to do things in the street.|
Although he studied art in Los Angeles at the Chouinard Art Institute and Otis Art Institute, and, in New York City at the Parson's School of Design, he has stated, "I can't stand art actually. I've never, ever liked art, ever. I never took it in school."
Hammons' "Basketball Drawing," 2001, 116 x 46 x 12, in the Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, features a framed and matted sheet of paper ten feet high covered with dirt from Harlem made by repeatedly bouncing a basketball on it. A found suitcase is behind it.
Rooted in the black urban experience, Hammons creates art works out of the debris of African-American life to confront cultural stereotypes and racial issues. He has made art since the early 1970s with grease, hair, barbecued ribs, cheap wine bottles and dirt, among other things, often on city streets and in vacant lots rather than in art galleries.
Hammons comments, "I do my street art mainly to keep rooted in that 'who I am' because the only thing that's really going on is in the streetIt isn't happening in these galleries. Doing things in the street is more powerful than art, I think, because art has gotten so I don't know what the ____ art is about now. It doesn't do anything. Like Malcolm said, it's like novocaine. It used to wake you up but now it puts you to sleepThere's so much of it around in this town (New York City) that it doesn't mean anything."
Hammons began making art on the theme of basketball in the early 1980s. For him, the African American experience of basketball is both one of exploitation of young black men by the white establishment and an integral part of the culture of the streets. "Those pieces were all about making sure that the black viewer had a reflection of himself in the work. White viewers have to look at someone else's culture in those pieces and see very little of themselves in it.
As the title implies, Hammons' "Skillets in the Closet," 1988, is just that. Several frying pans hang by their handles inside a narrow wooden cabinet. The outside of the cabinet is white, the inside dark. This "message" work has been as some white and black people trying to hide their black blooddark on the inside, white on the outside. Either way, it could be considered, in the artist's play on words, troublesome "skeletons" in the closet, rather than "skillets."
Michael Kimmelman, of The New York Times says, "Mr. Hammons is fundamentally a political artist whose works address issues of black history, African culture, racism, drug addiction and poverty with the compassion and something of the complexity demanded by these issues."
Hammons' "The Door," 1969, 6' 5" x 3' 2" x 5 1/2", in the Collection of the California Afro-American Museum Foundation, is an actual door, an old one, seen from inside, with "admissions office" printed in reverse and silhouettes of two black hands, face and body painted on it as if imprinted, pressing against the glass trying to get in.
"I don't know what my work is," says Hammons. "I have to wait to hear that from someone. I would like to burn (a) piece. I think that would be nice visually. Videotape the burning of it. And shoot some slides. The slides would then be a piece in itself. I'm getting into that now: the slides are the art pieces and the art pieces don't exist."
David Hammons is the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Awards" and a Rome Prize Fellowship. Some of his exhibitions include:
"The End: An Independent Vision of Contemporary Culture 1982 2000"; works by over 100 artists. Exit Art / The First World, New York City
"Travel & Leisure," Paula Cooper Gallery, New York City
"No/Show... An Evolving Exhibition ," Gallery Schlesinger, New York City
"A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary Drawing ,"
Museum of Modern Art, New York City
"The 1997 Biennial Exhibition," Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City
"Ascension," Deitch Projects, New York City
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David Hammons is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Black American Artists