• Harmony Hammond


    Crossings

     

  • Alexander Gray Associates, New York presents Crossings, its fourth exhibition of work by Harmony Hammond (b.1944). Featuring paintings dating from...

                             Harmony Hammond, 2019. Photo: Clayton Porter.                                                 

    Alexander Gray Associates, New York presents Crossings, its fourth exhibition of work by Harmony Hammond (b.1944). Featuring paintings dating from 2018—2020, the show’s large-scale canvases boast built-up surfaces that further refine the artist’s interest in “material engagement,” expanding and subverting modernist abstraction to bring social and political content into the nonrepresentational realm.

  • In Chenille #7 (2018), fraying pieces of coarse burlap and grommets are embedded in Hammond’s signature layers of thick paint....

    Harmony Hammond: Crossings, installation view, Alexander Gray Associates, New York (2020)                                                  

    In Chenille #7 (2018), fraying pieces of coarse burlap and grommets are embedded in Hammond’s signature layers of thick paint. Appearing at first glance to be a monochrome, up close, underlying colors are visible through cracks and peek out from flaps in the painting’s sculptural surface. Patterns created by the work’s raised grommets recall the soft, cozy texture and domestic warmth of white tufted chenille bedspreads. At the same time, reds, browns, and golds assert themselves from underneath the surface, oozing, discharging, and staining their surroundings to draw attention to what has been muffled, obscured, and covered over. In this way, the painting alludes to political threats and social unrest—marginalization and suppression—and lays claim to the physical vestiges of resistance and survival.

    Meanwhile, Hammond’s series of Bandaged Grids transform strips of canvas into bandages that stanch paint leaking from grommeted holes. Recalling the artist’s use of found fabric scraps in the 1970s, the seeping grommets and red-stained cloth of Bandaged Grid #9 (2020) refute the non-objective nature of the modernist grid, interjecting a corporal narrative and violent edge into its strict formalism. As the artist notes, “A bandage always implies a wound. A bandaged grid implies a disruption of utopian egalitarian order—but also the possibility of holding together, of healing.”

  • Building on the conceptual framework that informs Hammond’s Bandaged Grids, her series of Bandaged Quilts use paint and other materials...

    Harmony Hammond: Crossings, installation view, Alexander Gray Associates, New York (2020)                                                  

    Building on the conceptual framework that informs Hammond’s Bandaged Grids, her series of Bandaged Quilts use paint and other materials as a metaphor for the body. Featuring lengths of burlap and canvas arranged in quilt-like patterns, Double Bandaged Quilt #1 (Horizontal) (2019), Double Bandaged Quilt #3 (Vertical) (2020), and Fringe (2020) subvert the (male) legacy of Minimalist monochromatic painting, reclaiming these abstract compositions through the vernacular of (female) craft traditions.

     

    Similarly evocative, Black Cross (2019–2020) and Red Cross (2019—2020) feature wide swaths of rough burlap superimposed like giant cross-shaped bandages on white fields of grommets. “They are crosses and not crosses,” Hammond muses. “I began these paintings during the summer of 2019. What reads as crosses weren’t initially meant as crosses, but rather as Xs marking the spot, as plus signs and intersections. And yet, I have to admit, that they are crosses. There are many kinds of crosses and many kinds of crossings.” Despite the scale and muscular materiality of the Cross Paintings, as a sign, the cross is indeterminate; its form references diverse cultural associations, including religious iconography, emblems of medical and humanitarian aid, and the modernist art historical canon.

  • A crossroads for meaning—where the metaphorical and formal meet and are transmuted—Hammond’s Cross Paintings and other recent works ultimately invite multiple readings rooted in the primacy of the canvas as a stand-in for the body. Presenting her paintings as sites where paint is transfigured into skin, the artist constructs surfaces that simultaneously express trauma and recovery. Recuperative paintings for this moment—wounded, yet protective—Hammond’s works embody vulnerability, strength, and defiance to resonate in a time of radical social change.

     

    Harmony Hammond has exhibited nationally and internationally. In 2019, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT presented a fifty-year survey exhibition of her work, which traveled to the Sarasota Museum of Art, FL in 2020. Other institutions that have featured her work include: Whitney Museum of American Art, NY (2020); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL (2019); Des Moines Art Center, IA (2019); Brooklyn Museum, NY (2018, 1985); Museum of the City of New York, NY (2016); Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung, Ludwig, Vienna, Austria (2016); Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA (2015); National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (2011); MoMA PS1, Queens, NY (2008); Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada (2008); and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, Mexico (2007), among others. Hammond’s work is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Brooklyn Museum, NY; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, among others. Her archive is in the permanent collection of the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA. She has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim, Joan Mitchell, Pollock–Krasner, Esther and Adolph Gottlieb, and Art Matters Foundations, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Hammond’s book, Wrappings: Essays on Feminism, Art and the Martial Arts (TSL Press, 1984), is a foundational publication on 1970s feminist art. Her groundbreaking book Lesbian Art in America: A Contemporary History (Rizzoli, 2000) received a Lambda Literary Award and remains the primary text on the subject. In 2013, Hammond was honored with The College Art Association Distinguished Feminist Award. She received both the College Art Association's Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award and Anonymous was a Woman Award in 2014.

     

     

    Below is a video of Harmony Hammond discussing her work. 

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  • A pioneer of feminist and queer discourse, Harmony Hammond’s recent paintings focus on materiality and the indexical to suggest topographies... A pioneer of feminist and queer discourse, Harmony Hammond’s recent paintings focus on materiality and the indexical to suggest topographies...

    A pioneer of feminist and queer discourse, Harmony Hammond’s recent paintings focus on materiality and the indexical to suggest topographies of the body. They derive from and remain in conversation with her 1970s artworks. Chenille #7 (2018) belongs to an ongoing series of Chenilles, which incorporate rough burlap and grommets into Hammond’s signature layers of thick paint, suggesting the soft texture and domestic warmth of bedspreads. Chenille experts, like quilters, share an undervalued history of needlework and similar technique of puncturing fabric from the backside. In Hammond’s collaged and layered painting, the chenille reference is visual—performed by paint and other materials on the surface of the canvas, rather than the puncture of a needle and thread. Emerging from Hammond’s near monochrome paintings, which simultaneously engage with and challenge the narrative of modernist painting, Chenille #7 invites content and positions painting as a site of negotiation between what exists inside and outside the picture plane.

     

     

    Harmony Hammond

    Chenille #7, 2018
    Oil and mixed media on canvas
    58 1/2 x 118 1/2 x 6 in (148.59 x 300.99 x 15.24 cm)
  • Harmony Hammond: Crossings, installation view, Alexander Gray Associates, New York (2020)                                                  

  • Bandaged Grid #9 (2020) features fields or grids of grommets. Layering patches of fabric over grommets, in this work, Hammond...

    Bandaged Grid #9 (2020) features fields or grids of grommets. Layering patches of fabric over grommets, in this work, Hammond evokes a bandaged body. As she notes, “a bandage always implies a wound. A bandaged grid implies an interruption of the narrative of the modernist grid and therefore, an interruption of utopian egalitarian order … a precarity. But also, however fragile, the possibility of holding together, of healing.” As well as referring to the body and the history of modernism, a gridded field of grommeted holes physically opens the painting surface, alluding to layers and unseen spaces. Hammond’s Bandaged Grid series (2015-present) develops out of the artist’s near monochromes, combining an earth-based palette with an expanded vocabulary of found fabrics layered in horizontal rows onto the canvas. The use of found material scraps traces back to Hammond’s work of the 1970s, which was made from the fabric discards of friends and businesses in New York’s garment district. Then as now, Hammond harnesses these materials as a means to disrupt the art historical canon. As she explains, “Found and recycled materials and objects are one way to bring content into the world of abstraction, as they all have histories that accompany them wherever they go.”

     

     

    Harmony Hammond

    Bandaged Grid #9, 2020

    Oil and mixed media on canvas

    78 1/4 x 110 1/4 x 4 in (198.8 x 280 x 10.2 cm)

  • Double Bandaged Quilt #1 (Horizontal) (2019) continues Hammond’s exploration of “material engagement.” Building on her previous series of Bandaged Grids... Double Bandaged Quilt #1 (Horizontal) (2019) continues Hammond’s exploration of “material engagement.” Building on her previous series of Bandaged Grids...

    Double Bandaged Quilt #1 (Horizontal) (2019) continues Hammond’s exploration of “material engagement.” Building on her previous series of Bandaged Grids and Chenilles, Double Bandaged Quilt #1 incorporates a multi-layered, built up surface of overlapping strips of burlap and canvas, applied from the edges of the work to mimic a pieced quilt pattern. Repeatedly overlaid, the material — suggestive of bandages — does not quite cover the entire surface, leaving exposed blood-red slits at the painting’s opposing centers.

     

     

    Harmony Hammond
    Double Bandaged Quilt #1 (Horizontal), 2019
    Oil and mixed media on canvas
    57h x 104.5w in (144.78 x 265.43 cm)

     

  • Harmony Hammond: Crossings, installation view, Alexander Gray Associates, New York (2020)                                                  

  • Double Bandaged Quilt #3 (Vertical) (2020) continues Hammond’s exploration of “material engagement.” Building on her previous series of Bandaged Grids... Double Bandaged Quilt #3 (Vertical) (2020) continues Hammond’s exploration of “material engagement.” Building on her previous series of Bandaged Grids...

    Double Bandaged Quilt #3 (Vertical) (2020) continues Hammond’s exploration of “material engagement.” Building on her previous series of Bandaged Grids and Chenilles, Double Bandaged Quilt #3 incorporates a multi-layered, built up surface of overlapping strips of burlap and canvas, applied from the edges of the work to mimic a pieced quilt pattern. Showing ruptures and seams, the agglomerated material elements appear to emerge from and disappear into the canvas, creating a sense of three-dimensional relief, casting a shadow on the off-white coverlet below. Punctuated with protrusions, holes, seams and fraying edges, they foreground notions of suture and concealment – of hidden layers, spaces or narratives that lie beneath the surface. 

     

     

    Harmony Hammond
    Double Bandaged Quilt #3 (Vertical), 2020
    Oil and mixed media on canvas
    92 1/8 x 76 1/4 x 3 1/4 in (234 x 193.7 x 8.3 cm)
  • Among the most recent paintings is Black Cross (2020) which incorporates found burlap and grommets inserted in an irregular grid... Among the most recent paintings is Black Cross (2020) which incorporates found burlap and grommets inserted in an irregular grid...

    Among the most recent paintings is Black Cross (2020) which incorporates found burlap and grommets inserted in an irregular grid along the surface of Hammond’s signature layers of thick paint. Building on her recent series of Chenilles, works like Black Cross are punctuated with protrusions, holes, seams and fraying edges, foregrounding notions of suture and concealment—of hidden layers, spaces, or narratives that lie beneath the surface. 

     

    Harmony Hammond
    Black Cross, 2019-2020
    Oil and mixed media on canvas
    105 1/8 x 78 3/4 x 4 1/2 in (267 x 200 x 11.4 cm)
  • Contending that the “body is always near,” Hammond’s use of materials in Red Cross elicit notions of the canvas as... Contending that the “body is always near,” Hammond’s use of materials in Red Cross elicit notions of the canvas as...

    Contending that  the “body is always near,” Hammond’s use of materials in Red Cross elicit notions of the canvas as a metaphorical body, a place where surface and skin meet; where grommets serve as stand-ins for wounds and orifices; burlap straps infer bandages; and the formal quality of the cross-like element indirectly suggests an outstretched figure. At the same time the painting’s composition responds to the artist’s surroundings in New Mexico, where crosses as religious symbols dot the landscape. Emerging from Hammond’s near monochrome paintings, which simultaneously engage with and challenge the narrative of modernist painting, Red Cross invites content and positions painting as a site of negotiation between what exists inside and outside the picture plane.

     

     

    Harmony Hammond
    Red Cross, 2019-2020
    Oil and mixed media on canvas
    92 3/4 x 76 1/2 x 4 1/4 in (235.6 x 194.3 x 10.8 cm)
  • Harmony Hammond’s near-monochrome Fringe (2020) expands on the artist’s series of Bandaged Grid paintings that treat paint almost as a... Harmony Hammond’s near-monochrome Fringe (2020) expands on the artist’s series of Bandaged Grid paintings that treat paint almost as a...
    Harmony Hammond’s near-monochrome Fringe (2020) expands on the artist’s series of Bandaged Grid paintings that treat paint almost as a skin. Always interested in imbuing content into abstraction, the artist often collages cloth onto her canvases, layering, stitching, and ripping it. In Fringe, this material engagement plays with and subverts formalist conceits. Stacking planes of cloth one on top of the other, Hammond alludes to the reductive geometry of minimalism while also refuting it by evoking a bandaged, wounded body. As she explains, “It’s about what’s hidden, what’s revealed, buried, muffled, pushing up from underneath … a surface under stress.”

     

    Ultimately, the complex surface of Fringe is reflective of Hammond’s interest in what she identifies as a “survivor aesthetic.” She concludes, “My work … has to do with piecing things together and making something out of nothing. It’s about rupture, suture, and endurance.”

     

     

    Harmony Hammond
    Fringe, 2020
    Oil and mixed media on canvas
    53 1/2 x 35 1/4 x 2 1/2 in (135.9 x 89.5 x 6.3 cm)