David Hammons, ‘Untitled’, ca. 1990, Phillips
David Hammons, ‘Untitled’, ca. 1990, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
In David Hammons’ Untitled, the artist transforms ordinary, discarded craft materials into a unique and unexpected object. With a long wire extending through the central axis of a circular object and twisting delicately at each end, the work rests on the wall with personifying features that recall historical African American art objects. Resembling a human eye, the central motif possesses a sort of human condition, with feathers attached to its crown like eyelashes, which calls to mind the ancient use of the apotropaic eye as a symbol to ward off evil. Like the artist’s seminal hair pieces begun in the late 1970s, Hammons encases parts of the wire with hair, alternating the sections with colorful threads, creating a juxtaposition between the dirty and the beautiful. This pairing also exists on the surface of the circular element, which is fashioned out of linoleum covered in a subtle mosaic of color, embracing both the industrial and the handmade. As Manthia Diawara espoused in 1998, “[Hammons’] work is so simple, delicate, yet precise that if you remove a hair from an arrangement, the magic that makes it art is undone and the objects return to their banal, nonart existences” (Manthia Diawara, “Make It Funky: The Art of David Hammons”, Artforum, vol. 36, no. 9, May 1998, pp. 120-127).

Gifted to his friend, Kazuko Miyamoto, the long-time assistant of Sol LeWitt and a skilled artist in her own right, the work was made in 1990, the year of Hammons’ esteemed first solo show at MoMA PS. 1 and in turn, the beginning of a long series of critically acclaimed shows. Hung on the walls of Miyamoto’s apartment for years until unveiled at a show she curated in 2015, Untitled possesses a sense of urban energy that is found throughout the artist’s prolific oeuvre, in an intimate scale. The work was exhibited at Miyamoto’s gallery over two decades after its creation, alongside works by 27 artists whose work responds to the question, “What is the racial reality of life today?” For Hammons, this is not only a question he attempts to answer, but an identifying factor of his multi-disciplinary body of work. As he expressed in an interview the same year of the present lot’s execution, “I think I spend eighty-five percent of my time on the streets as opposed to in the studio. So, when I go to the studio I expect to regurgitate these experiences of the street. All of the things I see socially—the social conditions of racism—come out like a sweat” (The Artist, quoted in Maurice Berger, Interview with David Hammons, Art in America, September 1990, p. 80).
Courtesy of Phillips

New York, Gallery Onetwentyeight, Raciality, August 14 - September 12, 2015

Kazuko Miyamoto (gifted by the artist)
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About David Hammons

Since the 1960s, David Hammons has confronted American cultural stereotypes and racial issues through wittily incisive sculptures, installations, performances, and body prints. Placing himself somewhere between Arte Povera and Dada, Hammons has made art from the refuse and cast-offs of stereotypical African-American life: chicken wings, Thunderbird and Night Train bottles, dreadlock clippings, basketball hoops, elephant dung, and bottle caps. From his X-ray-like body prints made with grease, to his "Spade" series of garden spades (a reclamation of the racial slur), to Pissed Off (1981), in which he urinated against a Richard Serra sculpture, Hammons combines political sentiment with powerful aesthetic statements.

American, b. 1943, Springfield, Illinois, based in New York, New York