David Hammons

(b. 1943)

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(1943– )

American sculptor and installation artist, born in Springfield, Ohio. In 1974 he moved to New York, where he has subsequently lived and worked. His work addresses issues of Afro-American identity, not just through subject-matter, but even in apparently abstract work through the use of materials such as hair as signifier of racial identity. His practice implies a rebuke to the supposed ‘universality’ of abstract art. Untitled (Night Train) (1989) is an installation made from bottles of a cheap wine marketed to black communities; he found the bottles on the streets of Harlem. Hammons has been influenced by the art historian Robert Farris Thomson, who has written about the evidence of continuities between African cultural practices and the Americas. An example of this idea is the sculpture Spade with Chains (1973), an assisted ready-made, which is reminiscent of African masks but also refers to a derogatory term for black people and to the history of slavery. Although he exhibits in galleries and museums, Hammons prefers working outdoors, so that his work becomes more accessible. He has said ‘It's hard dealing with a white cube…It's not the way my culture perceives the world. It's for mad people, you put in the hospital.’

Subjects: Art.

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