David Hammons "Harmolodic Thinker" | Hauser & Wirth

by BJ Panda Bear

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With an exhibition dedicated to Ornette Coleman, the hallowed American free jazz musician and composer, Hauser and Wirth presents David Hammons’ Harmolodic Thinker, his first show in Los Angeles in 45 years, though it took me a good moment to realize that the press release was not just a piece of work. Interpretations have been abstract linking to the artist’s long time work in discussing the Black and American Identity as well as the notions of symbolism he addresses. The placement of the title, away from the dense drawings, reads as a place outside the density of mainstream horizontal lines.

His installation in the sheltered courtyard reflects that disparity between wealth and poverty, just walk down the street from the gallery and see this in action. This idea is also present in the way the show’s title lingers within the cobwebs of thoroughfares and freeways abstractly rendered on the show’s poster.

Installation view, ‘David Hammons’, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 2019 ©David Hammons Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirt hPhoto: Fredrik Nilsen Studio

Installation view, ‘David Hammons’, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 2019 ©David Hammons Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirt hPhoto: Fredrik Nilsen Studio

Inside, we see the Untitled 2018 piece, employing the mixed media of books placed on scales, presented on pedestals, worn and patinated—something for your own interpretation, whether it be the socioeconomic disparities between blue collar and white collar life, or the thought of strength and support that comes with the weighted judgement of classism. Was there supposed to be a difference between someone interested in reading Jimi Hendrix’s biography as compared to someone interested in Rothko? Or maybe it was the reflection of the bourgeois mediocrity of owning Frescoes of the Veneto: Venetian Palaces and Villas.

David Hammons, Untitled, 2018 Mixed media Dimensions variable ©David Hammons Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Genevieve Hanso

David Hammons, Untitled, 2018 Mixed media Dimensions variable ©David Hammons Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Genevieve Hanso

Still, the furs on dress-forms spoke much on the thought of Jasmine Sander’s article about the historical significance of fur and the black identity, and how popularity and social acceptance waned as black women gained economic opportunity to purchase such furs. Placed as if in a showroom surrounded by Hammons’ iconic mask as if a store decoration. Upon further inspection, one would see the paint-splattered nature of the hides and ultimate PETA disregard. Was the mirror referencing the shame of owning fur or was it the degradation of fur ownership by a person of color?

Installation view, ‘David Hammons’, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 2019 ©David Hammons Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirt hPhoto: Fredrik Nilsen Studio

Installation view, ‘David Hammons’, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 2019 ©David Hammons Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirt hPhoto: Fredrik Nilsen Studio

Open for interpretation is maybe the thought that the stories the installation provided was one that anyone could engage with to determine how their narrative fit, any provocations would still make one feel all American as pie.