Orange is the New Black

Wood, metal, glass, acrylic
87.3 x 39.4 x 18.4 cm / 34 ⅜ x 15 ½ x 7 ¼ in

Through a multidisciplinary practice that spans installation, printmaking, sculpture, painting and performance, David Hammons explores issues of identity and Black representation while incisively challenging art historical and socio-political constructs. His materials are culled from both traditional art supply sources and found objects, resulting in mixed-media works that often reframe conventional narratives, upend preconceived stereotypes and skewer art world hubris.

Throughout Hammons’ artmaking, he has looked to Duchamp and his deployment of the readymade in art. In Duchamp’s spirit, Hammons has utilized mass-produced Africana since the late 1970s, acquiring masks and statuettes from street vendors and later from online retailers. These are subsequently included in his sculpture, visible in the multifaceted combination of ‘Untitled’ (1996).

David Hammons, Untitled, 1996
African masks, mirror and wire
142.2 x 22.9 x 69.9 cm / 56 x 9 x 27 1/2 in
The George Economou Collection

‘Orange is the New Black’ (2015) takes the appearance of an intricate ceremonial mask with a bold vertical headdress and looped earrings. Gestural applications of orange pigment coat its surface, exposing patches of dark wood with glints of mirrors and metal ornamentation underneath. Positioned on a stand suited for institutional or museological display, the sculpture enacts revelation and concealment, a fitting commentary for an artifact of undisclosed origin.

‘Outrageously magical things happen when you mess around with a symbol.’—David Hammons

‘Orange is the New Black’ functions on several symbolic levels. As Hammons critiques the commercialization and trade of ceremonial objects, he also ‘re-sacralizes’ them in rituals of his own design and, irreverently, by way of artworld institutionalism. [1] Equally drawing upon the appropriation of Black culture as fashion and the commodification of Black bodies, Hammons also references issues of mass incarceration, with a title that nods to the television series about the women’s prison system in the United States.

Over the past six decades, David Hammons has explored the issues of Black representation and identity in art and the world at large. With a multifarious oeuvre spanning performance, drawing, printmaking, painting, and sculpture, Hammons interrogates racially charged stereotypes by manipulating cultural symbols.

On view in New York

Our new gallery space at 542 West 22nd Street is now open for timed viewing appointments. David Hammon’s ‘Orange is the New Black’ can be viewed alongside solo exhibitions of work by Roni Horn and Paul McCarthy. To book a timed viewing appointment, please make a reservation and review viewing guidelines prior to your visit.

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