A Review of David Hammons' "Five Decades - A Look at Iconic Contemporary Art"

In an age of technology and social media, the art world has kept interest and excitement with new exhibits by iconic talent. Installation and performance artist David Hammons new exhibit at the Mnuchin Gallery brings the his work back for a full collection for spring 2016. The collection of work is the first career survey for Hammons in 25 years. The midwest-born artist with a Los Angeles background, unveiled his most recent works with the collection and added Japanese music as an added touch to the viewing. Hammons was also heavily involved in arranging the show.

The work unveiled at Mnuchin, located on the upper east side of New York City, is full of statement art pieces that express the emotions of musical art, the realism of graffiti art and even some modern day expressions which includes the use of color.

As a lover of all styles of art, I had a chance to see the collection and look at the pieces with an open eye. I was able to make some interpretations as to what I thought the artists may be trying to say. There were some pieces that took more thought, while a few of them may be designed with the elite art lover in mind, too in-depth for a basic art viewer to understand. This may have been the goal of David Hammons.

David Hammons work spans nearly 50 years, hence the name “Five Decades” While the art tends to lean toward black power and urban movements across the decades of his work, there is a difference in his most recent work and his iconic work from decades earlier. In this review I divided his most recent works from his iconic works.

Most Recent Works

2015 - Hammons 2015 work includes an untitled piece- a canvas with mixed colors and red acrylic draping. The look of it is modern, in line with many contemporary artists. Looking at the huge splash of red gives the thought of blood and possibly symbolism of the struggle in America for unity among its people.

2014 - Another untitled piece in the collection - A long glass mirror covered in boards. It gives the look of an abandoned home where the original architecture is being preserved from damage. Lovers of Pre-war properties and architecture will easily gravitate to the sculptured edges around the glass mirror.

Orange is the New Black - This work of art - created in 2014, is the namesake of the popular Netflix digital series. The statue is made of wood, nails, glass and acrylic. It reminds me of a modern spin on classic Tibet or Aztec art styles.

2012: Hammon’s “A Movable Work” is my least favorite of all of his collections. It does not look creative. It appears to be a pile of brick at a construction site. There may be deeper meaning here. But it was difficult for me to grasp.

2001 - “Which Mike do you want to be like ….?” This clever piece is simply made out of three performance microphones. The piece was created at the end of the Michael Jordan basketball era. It’s a play on Nike’s “Be Like Mike” ads. The three different mics have unique character and can be compared to life, personality and of course art.

Iconic Work Before 2001

Through partnerships with organizations and under his own leadership, Hammons created earlier works with specific thoughts and meanings, while leaving the art open for interpretation.

1997 - “Basketball Chandelier”- This piece is the mixture of interior design and sports. A traditional basketball hoop was transformed into a chandelier fit for a formal dining room. One might look at this work and think Hammons was fusing the two to convey the value of basketball in urban society.

1988 - “How Ya Like Me Now?” This piece takes a political stance with graffiti writing on a photo of a blonde blue eyed man near an American Flag. Many conclusions can be drawn from this work.

1970 - “Sexy Sue” This work is a woman wearing dark glasses draped in a fashionable floral material. The piece was created at the end of the flower child era and into the more powerful statements and freedom exuded in the 1970’s.

Overall, I think the David Hammons exhibit holds the interest of viewers and is worth the visit. It is definitely a conversation starter for a date night or a group of art enthusiasts. My only dislike is the lack of titles among his most recent works. It leaves the viewer of the art slightly confused since the need to grab for a meaning is important to those who love art and are not creators of it.

Whether you love or hate the art in David Hammons' Five Decades, it is something to see and discuss.