Hugh Hayden Untangles American Mythology with Overgrown Sculptures and Skewed Installations — Colossal

1701881965 903 Hugh Hayden Untangles American Mythology with Overgrown Sculptures and Skewed | RetinaComics



Art

#anatomy
#Hugh Hayden
#installation
#public art
#sculpture
#wood

December 6, 2023

Grace Ebert

Installation view of “The end,” NGV Triennial, Melbourne. Photo by Sean Fennessy. All images shared with permission

In a trio of ongoing exhibitions, Hugh Hayden (previously) tackles American myth-making, unraveling the incomplete and ignored narratives that ground our politics and culture.

For the National Gallery of Victoria Triennial, Hayden installed “The end,” a grade-school classroom complete with wooden desks and a mirrored blackboard. Educational settings are a recurring in the artist’s practice, and he pairs the motif with three dodo skeletons. The flightless birds were native to Mauritius and one of the first species to go extinct because of European hunting and deforestation on the island.

Tying this colonial eradication to academics, Hayden roots out the ways colonialism and its tenets continue to undermine the educational system and highlights the loss inherent within the African diaspora.

 

a wooden cabin with brick chimney is slants 20 degrees to the left in a park

“Huff and a Puff” (2023), deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. Photo by Mel Taing

“Huff and a Puff” similarly probes historical narratives. Permanently installed at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusettes, the small wooden cabin is a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s home at Walden Pond. Slanted a surreal 20 degrees, the building skews what’s typically thought of as a birthplace of American self-reliance, environmental consciousness, and capitalist critique.

“‘Huff and A Puff’ is about perspective, not only in terms of its physical experience but also conceptually, given that for some people, the world is not so easy to live in,” the artist says. Given its angled construction, the cabin would be uncomfortable, if not impossible, to occupy without bending or contorting one’s body to fit.

 

the left door of a row of black bathroom stalls opens to reveal a wooden toilet sculpture with branches emerging from its sides

Installation view of ‘Hugh Hayden: Hughman’ at Lisson Gallery, Los Angeles. Image © Hugh Hayden, courtesy of Lisson Gallery

And finally, in his first solo show in Los Angeles, Hayden considers “the prosthetics of power,” or the artificial structures that can be weaponized for control and authority. Titled Hughman, the exhibition is entirely hidden behind a row of black bathroom stalls that must be opened to see the works, an act associated with privacy and rife with discrimination given the current proliferation of bathroom bills.

Inside is the artist’s play on an origin story. A twist on the anatomical models found in doctors’ offices, “Eve” is a wooden sculpture of a pregnant body with a baby curled inside. Other works include various types of seating—a director’s chair, school desk, and toilet—made impossible to use by branches jutting out from their sides or their flimsy, bristle construction.

Hughman is on view through January 13 at Lisson Gallery, while “The end” is up through April 7 in Melbourne. For deeper insight into Hayden’s work, pick up American Vernacular published earlier this year and also on Colossal’s Best Books of 2023 list, and find more on Instagram.

 

an installation of wooden school desks with a mirrored blackboard and teacher's desk. three sculptures of dinosaurs rest atop some of the desks with wooden branches emerging from their sides

Installation view of “The end,” NGV Triennial, Melbourne. Photo by Sean Fennessy

an installation of wooden school desks with a mirrored blackboard and teacher's desk. two sculptures of dinosaurs rest atop some of the desks with wooden branches emerging from their sides

Installation view of “The end,” NGV Triennial, Melbourne. Photo by Sean Fennessy

a wooden cabin with brick chimney is slants 20 degrees to the right in a park

“Huff and a Puff” (2023), deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. Photo by Mel Taing

a schooldesk made of white bristles

“Brainwash” (2023),
PVC and nylon bristles, 33 x 26 x 29 inches. Image © Hugh Hayden, courtesy of Lisson Gallery

A wooden sculpture of an anatomical model of a pregnant stomach with a wooden baby curled inside

“Eve” (2023), cherry bark and acrylic on resin, black walnut,
25 x 15 x 10 inches. Image © Hugh Hayden, courtesy of Lisson Gallery

black bathroom stalls open to reveal several sculptures

Installation view of ‘Hugh Hayden: Hughman’ at Lisson Gallery, Los Angeles. Image © Hugh Hayden, courtesy of Lisson Gallery

#anatomy
#Hugh Hayden
#installation
#public art
#sculpture
#wood

 

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