America Is Hard to See

Solo en Inglès

This audio guide highlights selected works by artists in America Is Hard to See. Curators, scholars, and artists provide additional commentary.

544David Hammons, Untitled, 1992


David Hammons, _Untitled_, 1992. Copper, wire, hair, stone, fabric, and thread, height 60 in. (152.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Mrs. Percy Uris Bequest and the Painting and Sculpture Committee 92.128a-u

NARRATOR: Art historian Kellie Jones.  

KELLIE JONES: Some people describe it as like a tarantula; some kind of animal; some kind of bug; but huge. But if you go close to it, of course, what the main thing about it is that it’s this huge construction that’s made with African American hair, I mean not solid tendrils of hair, but hair that’s been affixed to wires, that’s been strung on wires. 

Of course probably the most direct comparison in that case, is dreadlocks.I think it’s just, like I said, a kind of monumental homage to the body. But again, as David usually does, at this point, after the ‘70s, the body is only made reference to, and it’s not a figurative work, necessarily.

David starts out in LA, in the mid sixties, working with a group of artists, African American artists who are kind of right in the middle of the kind of California interest in assemblage that came out of the Beat movement of the fifties and early sixties.  

So there’s an African American movement at that time, in the sixties, which is using castoff materials in the same way, but actually with a different slant, in that they’re using materials that have a significance for African American life. 

And you know as he always says, you know, these items are free. That’s why I use whatever there’s a lot of that’s free. So he’s used bottle caps. He used hair in the same way, because he goes to barbershops, and this is garbage. This is the refuse that’s thrown away. And he also talks about, particularly in the case of hair, you can think of all the magical properties that it also has as well in so many cultures. 

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