David Hammons

Born 1943.
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David Hammons Biography

Known for his versatile body of work that spans sculpture, installation, drawing, and performance, over the past five decades David Hammons has distinguished himself for his highly provocative and conceptual interpretations of African American art history. Hammons was born in 1943 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Los Angeles in 1963, beginning his career there after attending Cal Arts from 1966-1968 and the Otis Art Institute from 1968-1972, where he studied under realist artist and activist Charles White and drew influence from the traditions of Dada and Arte Povera. One of his first notable series of works is his Body Prints executed between the 1960s and 1970s, in which he created life-size representations of his figure by greasing and printing his body on paper in a process of one-to-one transfer. By the mid-1970s, Hammons moved to New York, where he would disengage from two-dimensional works and focus instead on sculpture, installation, and conceptual performance that centered on the experience of urban Black life. From landmark performances like his Biz-aard Ball Sale (1983), where he sold snowballs on the sidewalks of New York City, to public sculptural installations like In the Hood (1984), where he mounted a hood from a used sweatshirt like an African mask, Hammons has contributed to critical discourse regarding cultural stereotypes, state violence, and the art world itself.

A distinguished avant-garde provocateur, Hammons once famously remarked in 1986, “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?” Yet Hammons, who received the MacArthur Fellowship in July 1991, is one of the most influential living American artists today as his works reside in major international public and private collections, including those of Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; SMAK, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent; and Tate Britain, London. Addressing issues of race, economics, and power with unprecedented wit for over half a century, Hammons continues to be celebrated today as a leading voice of contemporary art.

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