Dave Hammons: White Cube (Mason’s Yard)

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The first room in the white cube plays out a basketball game from the point of view of a curious passing spectator; the pieces on the walls are created by the repeated bouncing of a basket ball onto the strips of paper. I stress the idea of the passing spectator due to the implied foreign origin of the viewer given by the way the pieces are leant away from the wall by use of small suitcases sitting on the bottom of the reverse of the frames. Furthermore, two of the pieces are called ‘Travelling’, which has a double meaning as a term used in basketball, implying the action occurred in the production of these.

The two pieces given the name ‘Travelling’ are also the two older pieces, originating from 2001/2 and Harlem due to the specified use of ‘Harlem earth’. The renewed interest in this subject or method of production suggests an aura of one returning from their travels to replicate their experiences.

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The use of the suitcases to pry the pieces away from the flat wall, creating an angular vision of them that is more pointed towards the human eye and therefore reducing the parallax error that occurs with hanging tall artworks flat serves a second purpose that is further repeated throughout the rest of the show: That of the normally hidden. The suitcases give us the privilege of seeing the backs of the pictures if we so desire, something that normally does not occur.

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This privileged view of the ‘non-art’ side of a gallery is much more evident when one travels to the lower level, and to the rest of the exhibition. The lights that can be seen in the above image of stairs have none of their covering plates on in the lower gallery. The light is therefore harsher, more pointed and less diffused, giving a subtly different and more shadowy experience in the galleries below. Furthermore, the entrance door, through which large works are permitted access to the gallery, has not been taped up and painted over, just merely shut. Hammons then has the brilliant idea of hanging one of his works on such an area.

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The effect of this is striking and holds great meaning. His pieces are all about the covering up of privileged information. The canvasses are painted, yet we are not permitted to gaze upon these works, much like the wall behind the artwork in the image above.

The crude aesthetic of the use of tarpaulin also fits perfectly with the aesthetic of such a gaping hole in the wall and the rough lighting in the ceiling above.

We want to see the ‘real’ work, but we can’t look under, we can’t move the tarpaulin, the information is teased through gaps in the coverings but those coverings remain stalwart in their protection from the public.

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