A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Wednesday, November 15

L.A. Object and David Hammons Body Prints at the Tilton Gallery

Provoked by the insanely positive review of this exhibit in yesterday's Times—it was almost like a dare to miss it, and one I obviously wasn't willing to take—I spent about 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoon in the Tilton Gallery, a 76th Street townhouse, right off Fifth Avenue, looking at amazing art which couldn't have evoked a feeling, and a place, farther from its current setting.

The first floor of the gallery is dedicated to sculptor David Hammons's body prints, perhaps 20 or so pieces, mostly from the 1960s and '70s, often highly-charged and political, always informed by the Black experience in America. This is compelling stuff, both as art in and of itself, and, inescapably, because of the era from which it emerged. I especially liked his riffs on Klimt; his colorful collages, reminiscent of Romare Bearden; and the eerily simple shadow self-portraits, which called to mind the silhouettes left behind at Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

The second floor is even better, I thought: an awesome collection of assemblages informed by the "California Funk" movement, again mostly from 1960s and early 70s, and, like Hammons's body prints, apparently unavailable to the public for decades, until this show. Most everything here is provocative, or moving, or in some way visually creative. My highlights would include Timothy Washington's sculptural slams at ethnic stereotyping; Dale Davis's sad snapshots of empty domesticity; John Riddle's visceral "Gradual Troop Withdrawal" (above); and Nathaniel Bustion's Shadow Mask-Raku (below), which I alternately saw as a shattered face and two pistols pointing at my head.

But my favorite piece upstairs was by Hammons, an assemblage of found objects—trashbags and rubber sheeting and a backwards-turned cap—which stunningly captured the urban living dead, the dirty, discomforting homeless whom I would always rather ignore, but don't seem to be going away anytime soon. My lame photo below doesn't do it justice, but this is a powerful piece of work.

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