Magazine article Artforum International

David Hammons

Magazine article Artforum International

David Hammons

Article excerpt

SALZBURGER KUNSTVEREIN/CHRISTINE KONIG GALERIE

David Hammons' African-American version of the "Stars and Stripes" - a green, black, and red flag - billowed over the portal of the Salzburger Kunstverein, lending the building the air of an embassy. In a place like Salzburg, where the culture-intoxicated bourgeoisie comes to see great opera and theater, an exhibition offering work by a black artist gives rise to expectations of utter otherness, which will hopefully manifest itself in the form of charmingly "different" cultural artifacts.

But Hammons, a bit of a killjoy, defeated such expectations. Only one picture in this show, in fact, made explicit reference to the "black other." Tellingly enough, however, this portrait of a black woman is the work of Salzburger Rafaela Toledo, who with this painting commemorated her friendship with a woman writer stationed in postwar Salzburg during the American occupation. Hammons borrowed the picture from the artist and hung it on a red-and-gold patterned wall in a darkened, box-shaped room that had the aura of an haut-bourgeois salon. If the portrait included local references in its intersection of the historical and personal, a more general one was made through the use of music in the three other parts of the installation. There the Salzburger public found its beloved opera, as Verdi's La Traviata played in tandem with the crushing noise of a cement-mixer. This musical construction site, a desperate tour de force, recalled an absurdity of present-day Salzburg - the reconstruction of a house, destroyed fifty years ago, in which Mozart once lived.

When the sounds of Verdi and the machine receded, rap music emerged from an amplifier concealed by leaves on the seat of a swing made of tree-trunks and gilded chains. Was the American music meant to suggest playfulness, and the European the opposite? …

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