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Moving to the Other Side
£120,000 - 180,000 ‡
sold for £175,000
The Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company African-American Art Collection, Los Angeles
Their Sale, Swann Galleries, New York, 4 October 2007, lot 35
Phillips, New York, 16 September 2014, lot 48
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Moving to the Other Side, a unique work executed in 1969, belongs to David Hammons’ series of celebrated body prints, a progressive and visually arresting body of work which led to the artist’s increased notoriety and international recognition in the 1970s. Erudite in his formalisation of tension and inequality, Hammons’ work is synonymous with the encapsulation of a particular experience, namely that of the black community in the United States of America. In Moving to the Other Side, Hammons presents his body as the subject, pressing his unyielding form into direct view. Reacting to the lack of public representation for black artists in 1960s America, as well as his personal experience of growing up in a divided society, Hammons’ distinct approach to societal injustice culminates in his direct presentation of the black body, which, in the present work, attempts to break through the bonds of two-dimensional representation in protest. A seminal example of his pioneering technique, Moving to the Other Side is evocative in its deeply personal bond with its creator, allowing the viewer a glimpse into the artist’s very essence.
Hammons’ distinct conceptual technique, combined with his selected monochromatic colour palette and exploration of movement culminate in an intriguing crescendo in Moving to the Other Side, a unique example from his revered series. To create his infamous body print series, Hammons covered parts of his body and clothing in a greasy substance, such as margarine or baby oil and physically pressed himself against the paper. Subsequently, he would dust this impression with powdered pigment, which would adhere to the greased areas, revealing minute details and textures of the artist’s hair, clothing, and skin. The present work is unique in its creation, as Hammons chose to make the initial body print against a silkscreen stratum, using a screen to create the monoprint that is Moving to the Other Side. Conveying feelings of a community ostracised, segregated and alienated, Hammons corporeality pushes into the paper, trying to break through the paper surface. Toying with the idea of opposites, light and dark, mortality and the afterlife, black and white, Hammons’ work presents a complex reflexive reading, challenging the very nature of the human condition.
Appearing both fleeting and tangible in the present work, Hammons’ body creates a gradient in colour moving from right to left through consecutive imprints. This dynamism conveys vitality on the two-dimensional plane, a concern explored by some of Hammons’ artistic predecessors such as Marcel Duchamp and Yves Klein. Using his body as a tool, Hammons transports his physical presence to the forefront of his artistic practice. Re-examining the self-portrait, in the present work the mythic artist is un-romaticised, becoming the central subject matter which steals our gaze. The outlines of Hammons’ nostrils, hands, ears and torso form a characteristic imprint of the artist who has laid himself bare, his body and art unified as a joint statement, which inform and consolidate each other as one.
Created the year after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Moving to the Other Side is multi-layered in meaning. The 1960s were a hot bed of civil rights activity, where the events in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 and Rosa Park’s infamous arrest in 1955, as well as daily incidents of injustice, had given rise to both peaceful and violent protest, as groups campaigned for better integration and recognition of the black community. The Black Power movement, anti-Vietnam War sentiments in 1964 and international student protests created a swell of mobilised and political youths and adults, all vying for change. In March 1963, 200,000 people marched on Washington for jobs and freedom, which served as the platform for Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, the landmark exhibition currently on show at the Tate Modern, London, presents Injustice Case (1970), one of Hammons’ body prints, which served as a political reaction to the restraining of Black Panther Bobby Seale at trial. This, as well as the recent exhibition, Revolution, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, focuses on this volatile period as a parameter to explore the contemporary cultural and artistic output which would change the lives of future generations internationally. With his razor-sharp perceptivity and finger intuitively on the political pulse, Moving to the Other Side lay at the forefront of artistic reactions to racial, political and societal tension during this turbulent time.
Developing his practice to explore a variety of mediums, Moving to the Other Side and Hammons’ series of body impressions gave way to the artist’s utilisation of significant found objects or detritus laden with symbolic energy. His sharp and accomplished ability to strike the nerve of political and societal discontent, whilst creating aesthetically compelling works, has continued to engage contemporary audiences. More recently Hammons’ In the Hood sculpture has been used by the Black Lives Matter group and has become visually iconic for the movement. A seminal work from a pivotal moment in his career, Moving to the Other Side challenges the notion of injustice, which remains a relevant concern today. Faced with the image of Hammons’ body, the viewer is urged to think about the current threads of intolerance and prejudice which run through our communities, making the present work more poignant than ever.
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.
Moving to the Other Side
£120,000 - 180,000 ‡
sold for £175,000
London Auction 6 October 2017