Untitled (Body Print)

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist in 1975)
    Sotheby's, New York, September 25, 2013, lot 120
    Salon 94, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “When I lie down on the paper which is first placed on the floor, I have to carefully decide how to get up after I have made the impression that I want. Sometimes I lie there for perhaps three minutes or even longer just figuring out how I can get off the paper without smudging the image that I’m trying to print.” - David Hammons

    David Hammons’ Untitled (Body Print), 1974 is a riveting self-portrait charged with political poignancy that reflects the burgeoning Black Power Movement in America during the 1960s and 1970s. The present work belongs to the artist’s celebrated Body Prints series, which he began in the late 1960s while living in Los Angeles. Using his own body as a template, Hammons coated himself with margarine or grease and then pressed himself against a sheet of paper laid on the floor. He then dusted the composition with fine chalk or other pigments to set the impression, creating expressive works of art that are at once fleeting and deeply corporeal.

    Executed the same year as Hammons’ move from Los Angeles to New York, Untitled (Body Print) is a striking culmination of the artist’s years-long exploration of this process. Exquisitely tactile and delicately transient, the present work vacillates between figuration and abstraction, capturing a blurry, albeit precise, record of the artist’s physical presence. At the center of the composition, Hammons’ eyes, nose and mouth are recorded with near-photographic clarity. Belying this detailed record, the radiating motifs become increasingly abstracted, until they dissipate altogether. With all of its paradoxes, Untitled (Body Print) presents a complex reflection on the very nature of the human condition.

    A re-examination of the self-portrait, Untitled (Body Print) is exemplary of Hammons’ own reckoning with the absence of black-portraiture and representation in 1970s America. By physically recording his presence into the annals of fine art and bringing visibility to the narratives and experiences of racism that had been overlooked by art historical discourses, Hammons endeavors to rectify this jarring void. Hammons’ Body Prints are indeed cemented in the art historical canon, as works from this series reside in esteemed institutions such as of The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Ultimately, Untitled (Body Print) is a piece of history in of itself, allowing the viewer a personal glimpse into the elusive phenomenon that is Hammons.

  • Artist Bio

    David Hammons

    American • 1943

    Few artists are afforded the liberty to dictate exhibition schedules and public appearances, but David Hammons eschews the spotlight and rebels against the conventions of the art world. Whether intentionally or not, Hammons creates works so laden with spell-binding metaphor that they have become symbols for movements both in the art world as well as in the public domain. (His now-iconic In the Hood sculpture has been used by Black Lives Matter activist group.)

    Hammons doesn't work in mediums or any formal or academic theory—he famously has said, "I can't stand art actually." Still, with controversial works including his PETA-paint-splashed Fur Coat sculpture, Hammons remains one of contemporary art's most watched artists. Hammons also doesn't frequently exhibit, and his last major gallery show, 2016's "Five Decades," only featured 34 works. With a controlled market, Hammons saw Untitled, a basketball hoop with dangling candelabra, achieve $8 million at Phillips in 2013. 

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402

Untitled (Body Print)

signed and dated "Hammons 74" lower right
pigment on graph paper
22 x 17 1/2 in. (55.9 x 44.5 cm.)
Executed in 1974.

Estimate
$200,000 - 300,000 

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250
rbowling@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 450 Park Avenue