- David Hammons
- silver paint and mixed media on canvas
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2011
The present work comprises a large canvas cloaked in a plastic sheet that obscures the painted surface below. Areas of pigment are visible only through tears and holes in the overlaid wrapping, revealing gestural brushstrokes of metallic silver in a style alluding to Abstract Expressionist masters such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. The resulting layers confer a sense of compositional hierarchy upon Untitled which, in turn, leaves the viewer to question the aesthetic and visual conundrums that Hammons presents in an attempt to decode meaning. The riffled plastic surface clings to its canvas support as if statically charged before breaking free and extending away from the picture plane at all edges, effectively imparting a sculptural quality upon the work. Appropriating urban waste and detritus, Hammons elevates the simple waste bag to the status of high art, challenging the preciousness of the medium of painting and forming a dichotomy between waste and luxury goods.
Hammons has lived and worked in New York City since 1974, and his experiences there have informed the core theme of his oeuvre. Tackling issues of civil rights, racial and social inequality, and Black urban culture, Hammons’ work is permeated by a highly charged and omnipresent cultural critique. Through the use of provocative and unconventional materials he creates art with a strong visual impact that simultaneously shocks and perplexes. In one of his most infamous performance pieces, called Bliz-aard Ball Sale, Hammons took on the role of a street vendor during a snowstorm in 1983. The work consisted of the artist selling snowballs in a variety of sizes on the streets of New York, and was a potent capitalist critique that called into question the stability of the commodified art object.
Always a staunch critic of capitalist systems and the elitism of the art world, Hammons harshly calls into question the commodification of art and works to undermine these established values. Forgoing the standard systems of fine art display and reception he rarely gives interviews and declines representation by commercial galleries. Instead he emerges in unannounced and unexpected venues. Untitled is exemplary of Hammons’ characteristically unorthodox approach to artistic methods and materials, which persistently reach beyond the conventional limits of paint on canvas through the playful use of discarded debris. Hammons’ appropriation of commonplace materials imbues his works with an inherent accessibility and familiarity, further reinforcing his concentrated dismantling of the entrenched traditions of high art.