Van de Weghe Fine Art is pleased to present concurrent exhibitions of sculpture by Duane Hanson at the Madison Avenue and Chelsea locations this spring. Works from the Estate, represented by the gallery, as well as several works culled from private collections will be on view, spanning the artist’s thirty-year career as one of the most important and influential American sculptors.
In spite of his appeal, Hanson remains something of a singular artist. Trained at Cranbrook at the height of abstraction in the U.S., his embrace of the figure, naturalistic representation, and the forthright socio-political consciousness in his work were somewhat radical for the time. Indeed, his earliest pieces from the ‘60s often met with significant resistance from both the public and media, as it frankly addressed such issues as war, racism, and poverty.
Hanson’s use of materials – the progressive, “new” media of fiberglass and polyester resin - was equally remarkable. Using friends, family members, and locals he met at a nearby community college, Hanson built strong relationships with his models, who would undergo the time-consuming procedure of life-casting each part of the body. The level of detail in the work is truly extraordinary, from the moustache and myopic gaze of Man with Camera, 1991, and the subtle, hand-painted rash dotting the face of Bus Stop Lady, 1983, to the
weary expression of Rita the Waitress, 1975. While Hanson maintains affinities with his contemporaries working in the genres of Pop Art, Nouveau Réalisme, and Photorealism, his work continues to inform that of artists practicing today such as Evan Penny and Ron Mueck. Hanson’s work, however, ultimately resonates with a pathos rarely seen in contemporary art.
The present exhibitions begin with Hanson’s work from the early ‘70s, when he channeled the overtly political slant of his ’60s art into a focus on the more subtle, but no less powerful intrigue of plain, everyday people. These individuals – a woman waiting unexcitedly for the bus, a heavyset lady overburdened with shopping bags, a tired traveler resting on his luggage – while unremarkable in appearance, attract us precisely because of their everyday-ness. We can examine these figures that seem to be caught in a moment of reflection, bearing life’s hardships and banalities, in a way that is not permitted in our daily
interactions with others. In Tourists II, 1988, one of the artist’s most iconic works, we are presented with an overweight couple clad in Hawaiian shirt and summer stripes, themselves voyeurs, gazing indifferently at what lies before them. This work highlights the relationship of the viewer to the object, prompting us to reflect on the difference between looking and seeing.
Hanson’s work is currently on view at the Boca Raton Museum of Art in the exhibition, Duane Hanson: Sculpture and Photographs 1978-1995, through April 26. This summer his work will be shown at the Benaki Museum in Athens in Duane Hanson Sculptures of the American Dream, an exhibition that will tour to additional European venues through 2010.