March 18, 2016
Naked Quiddity

An art critic for The New Yorker is rendered so nervous as to become the ground zero of the lack and the possibility:

Beautifying asphalt would seem to be no cinch, but the naked quiddity of the stuff, after the third or fourth look, turns charitable. It’s typical of works by Hammons to repel at first glance and weave a spell on successive viewings.

Hammons’s strategic independence is inescapably self-conscious. It’s a quality he accepts for keeping his several identities — artist, cosmopolitan, American, African-American — in continual play. Infrequently some of what he does is throwaway slight or arch — take, please, “Standing Room Only” (1996), a taxidermied cat curled up on a West Africa style drum — but he is always original and never wanting in point or in purpose. Each piece intervenes in the normal course of art and society, creating a turbulence. He makes people nervous. Some white critics — such as me, when I first encountered his work — have reacted defensively, purporting to roll their eyes at the obviousness of the references and provocations.

But even if you understand a joke it can still be on you. The test is authenticity. The proof of Hammons’s art is his life, and vice-versa. His double-rootedness in demotic culture and in patrician sophistication brackets a social zone that he leaves void, anticipating polarized responses. Whatever you are, at this biting and elegant show, you become the ground zero of the lack and the possibility.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at March 18, 2016 03:37 PM
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