Staying “A Head” of the Game

(crowd-sourcing)Having met David Hammons twenty tears ago (if not more), I know his motto has always been, how to stay ahead of the game.

On a personal level, I’ve always thought of him as someone who never followed trends. His ideas about art have always been something new and different.

For example, at one point he was selling snowballs on the corner of St. Marks and 2nd Ave, and at another time he took telephone poles, and placed basketball goals atop the poles, which he showcased in an empty lot in Harlem. He called this piece, Higher Goals.

Then, at one time, while sitting at an opening at a Gerhard Richter show at the MOMA, David said he wanted to do a show at Tribes. When I asked him what the content would be, David was quiet and said nothing. He instructed me to leave what I had on the wall, and said he would be by the next day.

The next day he came by, took a newspaper, rubbed it against the wall where the frames were, producing an outline on the wall. This process took him less than an hour. He shook my hand and said, “I’m ready.”

The next day, Robert Storr, who was the chief curator of contemporary art at the MOMA, and Jack Tilton showed up wanting to know, ‘where was the art. David called it invisible art. Unfortunately for them, there was no art to be taken from the walls.

It was then six months later that he repeated the same process down at Ace Gallery, leaving the whole space devoid of art objects, with a woman sitting at a computer, next to someone playing the violin. That was the art.

It was somewhere around this time that I introduced him to Mireia Sentis, who wanted him to do a show in Spain. He had no idea as to what he would show, or how much he could charge the institution.

She explained that his show would take place in the Crystal Palace in Madrid, which the Spanish had built to collect flowers from the Philippines. Meanwhile, Mr. Hammons had been invited to produce a show in Poland. He sent them a fax announcing the date of his arrival in Madrid.

It was right then and there, he hit upon the Idea of the Global Fax Festival. Aside from A Gathering of the Tribes, David contacted an array of other galleries and institutions, which had shown his work over the last twenty odd years.

And on opening night, during a thunderstorm in Madrid, he had people sending faxes from all over the world. The faxes rained in from fax machines which were suspended from the ceiling of the Crystal Palace, while Butch Morris was performing written and improvised music. The faxing went on for an entire month. That is, whenever artists, writers and musicians dropped by Tribes, we had them shoot a fax over to Madrid. The same was true for the other participating institutions.

Over the course, over 10,000 faxes were received. From those, a book was produced, including over 300 faxes from all over the globe. Some artists whose work can be found in the Global Fax Festival booklet include: Andrew Castrucci, Butch Morris, Sarah Fergisun, Giuseppe Gallo, Jack Tilton, Alecia Romero, Amy Ouzoonian, Amiri Baraka, Stanley Whitney, Elana Oscar, and many others. Pieces include drawings, prints, manifestos, news articles, poetry and more. One piece features a sketch of Dali’s famous mustache. Another is simply the word, BUSH! with the exclamation point illustrated as a noose.

Originally, when Mr. Hammons got wind that the show would take place in a glass enclosure, he thought it would be a good idea to use sledge hammers and stones to destroy the entire space. But the Spanish government had disagreed. Global fax festival was plan B.

His latest foray; he was invited to do a show in Vienna. He came up with idea of smells. He would fill the space with various odors, and this would be the show.  Mr. Hammons has always been one who thinks of making art out of nothing, and nothing seems to be his forte.

Steve CannonTribes