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America is Hard to See: David Hammons at Mnuchin

artcritical - Art Review - March 24, 2016

“Prankster” is a word that comes up repeatedly in discussions of artist David Hammons and his work. Much has been made of his evasiveness, of the fact that he has spent his career flouting the art world’s propriety: his continual refusal to settle on a dealer; the propensity to make himself unavailable to curators even in the midst of show preparations; to stage exhibitions, performances, and installations with no prior announcement. Then there are the works themselves, from alluring abstract canvases you will never really see, as they’ve been shrouded with trashed vinyl tarps, to sculptures that cull beauty from empty bottles of $1.99 wine. But to seize and insist upon the perceived jokey qualities of Hammons’s art and persona resists the deeper significance of his output over the past 50 years. “David Hammons: Five Decades,” currently on view at Mnuchin Gallery, offers a corrective to this narrative. Comprised of 35 works spanning from the late 1960s to the present, it’s a crystalline show that helps to elucidate the long view of an artist who has made a career of otherwise obfuscating it.


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