The Last Time I Heard David Hammons

The first time I met David Hammons, here in New York, he was running around on his bicycle. The last time he came by Tribes, he told me he was doing an instillation in Vienna, which consisted of nothing but smells. I gave it some thought. Smells? When David and I first became buddies, he explained to me that he certainly did not have a large amount of money to produce work like the abstract expressionists, so his strategy in the art world was to go the route of Art Provero.

Since I’ve known David, over the last twenty-five to thirty years- bicycle and all, he’s always found an inexpensive way to express his ideas through art.

For example, take his ideas about basketball and his work titled Higher Goals. And or, take his works on American hairstyles, taking stone, wire and human hair and calling it art- such is his work currently on exhibition at the Whitney- Spike Lee.

Or better yet, take for example his body prints, in which he applies paint to his face, then presses a paper against his face and makes a print out of it. There is also his classic piece of Jessie Jackson adorning blond hair and blue eyes. The caption reads; How do you like me now?

But the last time David came to visit me here at Tribes, he told me about a wonderful idea he had for a show in Paris.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before that, David had been invited to do a show at Ace Gallery on the invitation of Douglas Christmas. David told me he was going to invite every Blue Chip artist in the country to be part of the show and that he would curate it, the likes of Jasper Johns Robert Raushenberg, etc.

I attended the opening. The place was without lights and he had a woman sitting at a computer and someone playing the Cello. That was the show.

Three days later, David came by to tell me that the gallery owner was complaining because he was losing twenty-five thousand dollars a day. David’s answer, of course, was, “He can afford it.’

But what really blew my mind was when David came by and told me about the show he had in Paris. He and fourteen other artists were invited by the city of Paris to produce public installations. When asked what his piece would be, David said that he would be doing a Rainbow.

By the time the show opened, David was back in Brooklyn. The curator called up and asked what had happened to the rainbow. David answered, “It’s coming soon. Don’t worry about it.”

But what really blew my mind was when David came by talking about his installation of smells. He decided, mind you, that all he needed was a hall. He would do and installation in an enclosed space and when the audience walked in they would sense a scent. But he never told me what the smell would be.

A month later he came by Tribes and gave me a disc. I said, ‘David, what’s this?’ He said, ‘That’s the smell.’

The only thing I know about Mr. Hammons and his art, since he believes in making something out of nothing, his whole thing is to stay one step ahead of the art game. Always has been, and as far as I can tell, it always will be. As they in parlance, you pay to play.



Steve Cannon

Director- A Gathering of the Tribes.


Copyright 2010