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Details
David Hammons (b. 1943)
On Loan
painted metal wall hook and dust
installation dimensions variable; the artist has recommended the work be installed with a sheet measuring 30 x 22 in. (76.2 x 55.8 cm.)
Executed in 2000. (2)
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist, 2000
Exhibited
New York, School of Visual Arts, The Influentials: School of Visual Arts Women Alumni Invite Artists Who Have Shaped Their Work, August-September 2011.

Lot Essay

"I like the things that people will say to me while I'm nailing my bottle caps or when I'm selling my shoes. Sometimes one of them sees the little rubber shoes all in patterns and says, 'You should make art.' And I always say, 'Oh I never thought of that." (D. Hammons, as quoted in, David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1991, p. 15).

On Loan is a thought-provoking, audacious installation first created by David Hammons in 2000. Hammons developed the concept for the installation after a trip to Florence in the 1980s during which he encountered a museum wall empty of the piece it once held. He was inspired by this display of nothingness, of the shadow of a piece that once was. On Loan is a brilliant manifestation of Hammons' distinct affinity for the pun; with it he satirizes the paradoxes that exist both in the art world and in society. On Loan is an elegant example of the witty, satirical, and ultimately intelligent work that continues to speak to and for Hammons' audience.

On Loan is the ghost, or outline, of a piece that would have hung on the wall of a museum were it to actually exist. Using dust from the bottom of his shoe, Hammons used his hand to trace the outline of the blueprint onto the wall around a vacant wall hook and then positioned the molding strip to keep visitors at an appropriate viewing distance. The installation creates the illusion of a vanished work of art by displaying the fictive trace of an image's preexistence. Perhaps Hammons refers to the notorious theft of Leonardo's Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911: while attempting to recover the priceless portrait, the museum chose to allow Paris to view the space left empty by the theft. The public flocked to the Louvre over the following months to see what might be regarded as art history's first conceptual installation: the absence of a painting.
On Loan is a work of art created via the construction of an artwork's traditional viewing space. It is an abstract piece that summons the factual experience of viewing a tangible work of art. On Loan therefore sets in motion a string of dualities regarding that which we can and cannot see and possess. The title summarizes the oddity of viewing art in a museum, where one may possess an art object only with one's eyes and imagination. Hammons takes the notion of non-possession even further by removing the art object entirely, reenacting the "place holder" display techniques of on-loan works as a reminder of the inherent paradoxes of the art world.
As one of the number of artists who first addressed the inequality of African Americans in 1960s and 1970s America, Hammons has continued to develop fresh views on history and traditions, integrating humor and satire into his social commentary. Placing himself between the movement of Arte Povera and the conceptual mastery of Marcel Duchamp, Hammons comments on society using the evidence of its own remains, which reflect back to his audience his singular interpretations of the ironies, dualities, conflicts, and stereotypes that define the spaces around him. Hammons critiques stereotypical African-American life using chicken wings, Thunderbird and Night Train bottles, clippings from dreadlocks, and basketball hoops. He finds strength in these rough materials, celebrating their evidence of human use and allowing their stories to lend meaning to his installations. Hammons, embracing dirt and grit, brings a feeling of the street into his gallery spaces, keeping his works immediate and relevant to the communities that have inspired them.
By making art from detritus and found materials, Hammons rejects what he sees as a barrier between the art object and the viewer-the frame of the traditional easel painting. Hammons' deep-rooted political views and opinions on racial relations lend his witty sculptures and installations an integrity and a refreshing honesty so very evident in his On Loan.

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