artist: david hammons

Do you know who David Hammons is? The contemporary African-American artist? The one whose sculpture is in the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection? Well, I didn’t. That is, not until I went to the Hirshhorn, saw this sculpture, and looked him up.

The sculpture is an untitled piece from 1989, made out of glass bottles and silicone glue. I thought it was pretty amazing. What could be more simple, more perfect than a circle? But then there are the components – the individual glass bottles – that are connected in a way that seems so natural and unforced given the shape of the bottles and the invisibility of the adhesive.

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A lot of his work deals with the civil rights movement from his heyday during the 1970s and 1980s. And though this particular sculpture has a distant, minimalist feel, it’s not. It’s not pure form, pure materiality, or pure object. It’s not a circle formed by the repetition of that particular angle; it’s actually a flattened spiral with slight irregularities. The glass is not clean and sterile; they are bottles of Night Train, a brand of bum/street wine. The sculpture is more than an object; it is a commentary on racial stereotypes, creating a sense of high art out of low trash.

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