Not on view
Human hair, wire, metallic mylar, sledge hammer, plastic beads, string, metal food tin, panty hose, leather, tea bags, and feathers
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Mrs. Percy Uris Bequest and the Painting and Sculpture Committee
Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate
Finding inspiration in the streets and everyday life of the Harlem community where he lived in the early 1990s, David Hammons gathers castoff, ordinary, and ephemeral materials—ranging from fried chicken wings and liquor bottles to dirt and snow—for use in sculptures and performance works. In this untitled sculpture, an array of spiky tendrils seems to sprout from a small bed of smooth stones. A combination of the organic and the manmade, the plant- or spider-like form here is composed of bits of kinked black hair—gathered from the sweepings of barbershops—that are attached to long metal wires. Pieces of hair inevitably fall beneath and around the work, evoking natural processes of change and decay. Like much of Hammons’s art, Untitled summons an uncanny sensation of the strangeness that often lies just below the surface of the familiar. The work also alludes to vernacular African-American traditions of making art out of whatever is at hand, and the hair suggests the presence of an extended community of countless anonymous individuals who indirectly contributed to its creation.
David Hammons, Untitled, 1992
From America Is Hard to See
David Hammons, Untitled, 1992
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.