Indepth Arts News: |
"DUANE HANSON – Sculptures of the American Dream"
2007-01-27 until 2007-06-04
ARKEN Museum of Modern Art
Now a body of them are invading Denmark: The bodybuilder and the CEO, the pensioner, the derelict and the family dog – American artist Duane Hanson’s exceptionally lifelike figures. See them for yourself when they settle in ARKEN’s Art Axis in the spring 2007 exhibition DUANE HANSON – Sculptures of the American Dream. The verisimilitude is astounding, as they sit there on the bench in the gallery. It is virtually impossible to see that the elderly couple with the glazed expression are not just another two exhausted museum visitors taking a well-earned rest amid the flurry of impressions. However, the life-sized sculptures are actually cast in bronze by the American sculptor Duane Hanson (1925-1996). Better than anyone in his generation he was able to portray the consequences of post-war consumer culture and lifestyle for the American middleclass, with equal parts tenderness, humour and barbed criticism.
Ordinary heroes and life’s losers
Duane Hanson confronts us with the typical prejudices about Americans – they are naïve, superficial, heavy consumers… Yet he does so with a humanity that makes it impossible for us to reject them. His figures are the spitting images of real people we know from our own lives. Types we meet in the office, at the gym, in the supermarket, and wherever else everyday life takes us. They are utterly ordinary and by no means conspicuous. They are just there. And yet they possess a certain quality. A quite unique mix of melancholy and a sense of ludicrousness, which manifests itself in the combination of their downcast eyes, worn clothes and heavy bearing, making them appear both universally human and typically American.
The land of opportunity
To face Duane Hanson’s sculptures is to confront the illusion of USA and its reverse. He spotlights how the notion of the land of opportunity translates into the real world. The generational portrait, which his sculptures paint, of the history of the Americans from the 1960s onwards is both satirical, critical of society and sympathetic.
Duane Hanson’s breakthrough was a series of highly controversial works that unequivocally took a stance in the political reality of America at the time. One of these works is Abortion (1965), a depiction of the fatal consequences of an illegal abortion, which was a contribution to the vehement resistance to the restrictive abortion legislation of the day. Later on Hanson’s interest in social reality adopted a more satirical guise. Focusing on the petit bourgeois, often unfulfilled dreams and ambitions of the middleclass, he made works such as Man with Walkman (1989): His overweight and sluggish posture is a glaring contrast to the promises of speed, energy and lightness held in this sporty attire, the Toyota bag at his side and his “Lite” promotional cap. Towards the end of his life Hanson turned to a series of more melancholy sculptures of characteristic types of all ages. These figures are primarily concerned with universal living conditions and the phases of human life.
About the exhibition
The exhibition DUANE HANSON – Sculptures of the American Dream is organized by Institut für Kulturaustausch, Tübingen, Germany. The exhibition at ARKEN Museum of Modern Art is the first venue on a tour. Subsequently the exhibition is shown at City Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland, and UNESCO Kulturerbe Völklinger Hütte, Völklingen, Germany. In connection with the exhibition tour Hatje Cantz publishes a fully illustrated catalogue in collaboration with ARKEN.
Study of Sunbather (ed. 6/6), 1990/91
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2006. Courtesy Institut für Kulturaustausch
| || |