ARTnews, May 2006


By Elisabeth Kley

The Triple Candie gallery fruitlessly pursued a project with the notoriously elusive artist David Hammons for several years before embarking on the brilliant, Duchampian gesture of presenting an unauthorized retrospective of Hammons' work using reproductions taken from books and the Internet. Every available example of Hammons' output from the 1960s to 2004 was printed on letter-sized paper and taped in chronological order to plywood panels nailed to the walls. A space was left at the end in case something new appeared.

The exhibition could not convey the visceral impact of Hammons' signature materials, which have included elephant dung, hair, chicken feet, and ice, but his mastery of scathing wordplay and conceptual performance shone. In an early assemblage, Spade with Chains (1973), the metal garden implement signifies the slang term for black man, while the shackles symbolize slavery. Higher Goals, a series of extravangantly tall basketball nets made in the early 80s, provided a trenchant comment on the basketball dreams of inner-city youth. In the Hood (1993), an actual hood from a jacket, refers to slang words for neighborhood, criminal, and popular street wear at once. Cold Shoulders (1990), an installation of overcoats slung on the corners of slabs of ice, evokes the plight of the homeless.

In Bliz-aard Ball Sale (1983), one of Hammons' most brilliant performances, he sold snowballs from a table on a Harlem street. And in Concerto in Black and Blue (2004), visitors provided with flashlights made their way through the enormous vacant rooms of a darkened Ace gallery, themselves the exhibition. For a reclusive artist who specializes in such ephemeral work, this made an ideal retrospective.


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